Archive for October, 2010
At 15 years old I toured my first university; at 17 I’d narrowed down my list of potential colleges from nine to two; and at 18 years old I agreed to do something that would alter the course of my young adult life. I agreed pay $130,000 for my college education.
Of course, I didn’t pay for all of that. My parents contributed to my education, my late grandmother’s estate covered part of it and I took on some of the burden. But at the end of the day, I emerged from my four-year, private liberal arts school with over $30,000 of debt. I watched as all the doors St. John’s University opened for me were simultaneously slammed shut because of the enormous financial burden. Working an unpaid internship, taking a year off to travel or starting an ambitious new project was out of the question — for the next ten years, I would have to pay $350 every month or risk ruining mine as well as my mother’s credit ratings (she was my co-signer). I needed to find income, and fast.
This burden has made me like a junkie in need of a fix — always thinking in the short-term. When I lost my job, when I decided to move to Wales, even when I moved to new apartments, I would watch by bank balance plummet and start to panic: How am I going to make the payments by the 28th of the month?
In the E.U., people wouldn’t dream of paying that much for university. One of the UK’s best journalism schools is right here at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism. As an E.U. citizen, I can attend the one year, post-graduate program for a mere £5,000 ($8,000). The American post-graduate equivalent, New York’s Columbia Journalism School, costs $50,000 for its yearlong program.
I’m not frustrated because I received a poor education. I worked for four years as a tour guide for the St. John’s University Admissions Office. One of the terms admissions officers liked to throw around was “value.” In the current climate of low-priced tech schools and web learning (you can even find doctoral programs online nowadays), the admissions office needed to work extra hard to convince prospective students that they were getting a good “value.” They demonstrated that by pointing to the faculty member that lived in every residence hall, the U.S. News and Word Report that listed our study abroad program best in the nation, and the campus locations in one of the most beautiful parts of the United States. I made the most of my four years at St. John’s, taking a leadership role at the student newspaper, enrolling in a variety of classes that engaged me even if they weren’t related to my degree and benefitting from the close proximity to so many mentors (St. John’s was run my a group of Benedictine monks).
But just an hour down the freeway sat the prestigious University of Minnesota, a school ten times the size of St. John’s that also had on-campus residence halls, also had study abroad programs, and I’m sure had a variety of adults that could have become mentor-figures to me. The price tag: A mere $7,000. (As opposed to St. John’s tuition at the time, which was $26,500.)
It’s a paradox: Did my expensive education make me the man I am today, or would I have been the same person with a much cheaper education? I don’t know, but if I could travel back to 2003 and talk to the 18-year-old me, I’d tell him to think a lot more carefully before taking out all those loans.
And with that, I have to tell my father something he’s been dying to hear since he first started urging me to keep my debt down in 2004: You were right.
This week, the Wales Blog Awards announced their shortlist of blogs, and I’m pleased to announce that Two Passports has been shortlisted in the category of “Best Writing on a Blog.” What does that mean, you ask? Well, I submitted this blog for consideration last month. One hundred and twelve blogs were added to the longlist, 34 of which were submitted in the “Best Writing” category. The judges whittled the list of 34 down to five, and from the five one will be chosen at the Wales Blog Awards Ceremony on October 14. I’m looking forward to meeting some of my fellow bloggers based in Wales. This will be the second blog award ceremony I’ve attended (last Spring I went to the Irish Blog Awards). One of the great things about these events is the exposure some overlooked blogs get, which is why I want to highlight one blog I’ve been bowled over by.
One of my fellow nominees in the “Best Writing” category is Ruthie Davies, who writes for The 7 Journey. Much like Two Passports, her blog’s narrative begins with a drastic life change in November 2009, but unlike my story hers is absolutely heartbreaking. Just five months after getting married, her husband was killed in a freak accident. She uses her blog to host her beautiful writing on the subject of grief. She speaks with refreshing candor about returning to church and her job, deciding what to do with her wedding ring and passing by her first wedding anniversary alone. “I never wanted to write this blog,” she says in her first entry. I’m sorry for the circumstances that motivated her blog, but I’m sure glad she’s a part of the Welsh blogging community.