I’ve always been very vocal about my love for the European Union and it’s incredible cultures. I get a lot of people asking me why I’m such a huge supporter of Europe, or why I hope to one day permanently relocate over there to start my career and raise a family. One of the biggest factors is education.
I, like many, cannot afford university in my country without committing to a massive loan. Most mediocre wage jobs that require simple skills, which can easily be taught through training, you can’t even get without some form of degree these days.
To pay for the education I want in Canada, to pay for one year’s tuition, I would have to make roughly $82 per day working 365 days per year. This in itself is unachievable because, if I were working a minimum wage job, it would require exceeding the legal maximum amount of working hours per week – never mind trying to pay for living expenses. But another issue is that the people who need the loans the most are often too scared to take them because, odds are, they have seen familial financial struggle first hand, and starting their life out in debt without any guarantee that they’ll be able to pay it off is not very appealing. To combat this, some other countries forgive student loans after a certain number of years if a person cannot afford to pay them back, (with, of course, certain factors taken into consideration such as if they’ve made reasonable attempts at getting a job).
Many countries in Europe provide tuition-free or incredibly affordable post-secondary education to their citizens. Why wouldn’t I want to support that? Why wouldn’t I want to support the economy of a country that actually invests in their people, as opposed to one that ties their citizens down with debt? Want to know how other countries get their citizens to stay? By doing what they can to provide a comfortable, happy lifestyle for their people. My Finnish and Swedish friends have told me they actually get paid by their government to study abroad – what?!
If our country promotes becoming educated, and makes it essentially impossible to get employed without a degree as an incentive, it makes zero sense to me that they are basically pushing us away with outrageous prices.
The government banks on the fact that our population is so brainwashed into believing that we’re the best (ethnocentrism at it’s finest), that the majority will stay. They essentially market the country to their own citizens by waving our Constitution and health care (which these days doesn’t compete that well) in our faces and saying, “Look at all the people that want to immigrate here!”
Of course they want to immigrate here. They are frequently from developing countries and have experienced incredible hardships, they’re usually much harder workers than Canadian citizens themselves (see brain drain and brain gain theories), plus, Canada will provide them with safety and basic public goods.
More importantly, it would be stupid of us to not want them to come here. As nice as it would be if we Canadians were just great people and that’s why we have one of the most open immigration policies in the world, it’s probably more to do with the fact that it’s actually in our country’s best interests to boost immigration.
Immigration correlates with economic growth; taking other countries’ most brilliant and adding their work ethic earlier described, results in nothing but good for our country. We’ve also got a tiny population with a massive amount of land – we’re ranked 230th out of 241 countries for population density – so it probably wouldn’t hurt to share it.
But not all Canadians are so ignorant to the truth that we are not the greatest at everything and anything. Actually, I find it pretty ironic that this blinding veil of ignorance was violently ripped off of my eyes by my former professors in Canada, and thus began my existential crisis. I was actually surprised sometimes that they were allowed to say the things that they were saying (or maybe they actually weren’t, who knows), because if people listen to them, it would really threaten to unravel this whole corrupt scheme.
These professors basically told me to scram and get over to Europe if I know what’s good for me. So in a couple weeks I’m off to study International and European Law at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands. I predict (and kind of hope) that eventually North America will have it’s own type of brain drain; I already see a heightened youth interest in studying in Europe. The only reason it hasn’t totally happened yet is because North American high schools don’t tell you about opportunities to study abroad, they just encourage you to stay within your own countries, of course. So the interest I see is mostly amongst students who are already in university, who are wishing they would have known all of this sooner.
If I were to give some advice on choosing where to study in Europe, I would say the most important thing is to really do your research on the institutions you may be interested in, and see if you can get some firsthand feedback from students there. I’ve already made this mistake once and wound up at a really corrupt private institution in Eastern Europe where students were basically buying a degree; so be careful! Due to the high levels of student cheating and plagiarism throughout high school in some of these areas, the universities either have to lower the quality of their education to suit the competency of the student population, or turn a blind eye to the continued cheating; and trust me, it does end up affecting you. I guess I had to learn all this the hard way but it was still a huge learning experience, regardless.
Otherwise, in terms of the high quality European institutions, even with international fees I still find their universities (other than in the UK, maybe) to be quite affordable, especially if you want to pursue law school like me, because you don’t have to do an undergraduate degree before you do your LL.B. I’ve also been told the same goes for degrees in medicine. Plus, there are a lot of scholarships for international students out there and living expenses are typically lower. I’m actually paying anywhere from half to a third of what I would at a comparable Canadian law school, so I’m pretty thrilled about that.
There are obviously, however, still several things to consider:
- If you want to return to your home country, will your degree be transferrable in your field of employment?
- If you still have to take a student loan, like OSAP, does it cover the institution you want to attend?
- And most importantly – can you handle moving across the world, being away from your family and friends, and adapting to a different culture?
If you answered yes to these questions, then I say, why not go for it?
Now, don’t get me wrong, obviously I love my country. I am incredibly grateful for how fortunate I am to have been born in a developed nation where I have an extensive amount of rights and freedoms, and where I can actually get an education in the first place. The issue that I have with my country is that we could do so much better. We already have the foundations of a great nation, but we shouldn’t stop there. While other countries in the world continue to progress, it seems as though North America takes steps backward. A country should always aim to keep moving forward, and in terms of policies surrounding education, we’re lagging drastically behind.