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Topic: Advice needed  (Read 1798 times)

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Advice needed
« on: February 04, 2014, 06:56:04 PM »
Hello all. I've been lurking for ages and have learned tons of great things! But now I'm wondering if I can get some advice that is unique to my situation.

In a nutshell, I'm a (very soon to be) 24 year old data processor stuck in a 4 year rut. I dropped out of school in 2010 because of some anxiety issues and an abusive relationship. It was awful and I'm not sure if I have totally recovered from it yet. My plan was to go back to school after getting my head together (1 year - TOPS) but I was later informed about a huge chunk of withdrawal fees I'd have to pay before I could even think about going to school again. School is and was probably the most important thing to me. Going back is my number one priority in life.

So for the past 4 years I have been working crappy office jobs, scraping together money, and living with my parents. It hasn't been fun and my depression has gotten pretty bad. But I finally paid off those withdrawal fees last fall, which was a huge accomplishment. Now my plan is to go back to school - specifically in the UK. It's ambitious and totally out of character for me but here are, put very briefly, my reasons:
-The US education methods don't really work in my favor. When I was young I had to transfer schools (and was even kicked out of one) because I was so unchalleneged that they labeled me as a "gifted underachiever." Rote learning simply does not benefit me in any way. I know that not all universities in the US use this method but let's be honest - the majority of them do, especially the affordable state universities. If I want a higher quality education that doesn't feel like an extension of high school, I'd have to pay out the wazoo. I've read a lot about the structure of university in the UK and it's much more appealing.
-I'm planning on going to school to be...an illustrator. (I know, I know...but no tutting, please. :) ) After going changing majors constantly (English, Anthropology, even Mortuary Science), I finally realized that art has been the one constant in my life and it's the one thing I'm actually pretty ok at. And art school in the US tends to (inexplicably) cost upwards of $40k per year, which is just bonkers. Plus, I've found some great illustration courses in the UK and already have offers from 3 of them and 1 more pending.
-I just like the UK. I've spent a lot of time there, met a lot of great people there, and of course...it doesn't hurt that someone very dear to me happens to live there.

Financially, when I work it all out in my head, the UK seems to be the cheaper (and shorter, which also contributes to cheapness) option for what I want to do and the kind of education I want to receive. I'm very frugal, good with money, and pretty good at keeping my feet on the ground. I'd like to fund the education through federal and private loans; I know it's not ideal and I'm no stranger to debt but I have high hopes for being able to supplement things like cost of living, etc. by working part time. I spoke with an Across The Pond advisor who told me many of her advisees work and have no trouble with it. I'm hoping this will be an option since I'm a hard worker and have a pretty solid professional background. Though I'd happy scrub toilets for 20 hours a week if need be.

There are a lot more details I could go into but I will spare you (unless you ask!) because basically what I'd like to know is - do I sound crazy? Does this seem like a really irrational step to take? I pride myself on being realistic and rational about my plans but I want to make sure I'm not deluding myself. I'm just worried that if I don't take a flying leap now I will be stuck in the rut forever. I need to start living my life and chasing things I want.

I'm already well into the process of making this happen. I've thought everything through, run the numbers in my head, fought with myself, etc. But I'd still like some input from OUTSIDE of my own head.


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Re: Advice needed
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2014, 09:09:57 PM »
It's never "nuts" to follow your dreams.

But I am curious as to how you've come to the conclusion that it would be less expensive to study in the UK versus the US.  I haven't done any studies here, so I'm not too sure on the costs, but I think it can run about £25k a year for an international student for fees/living costs.  At the current exchange rate (the pound is continuing to strengthen) that's over $40k a year.

One thing to keep in mind is that the UK is making it ever-more difficult to immigrate here.  There is every possibility you could have a UK degree but be unable to stay in the UK after you graduate... is that something that you would be okay with?


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Re: Advice needed
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2014, 09:21:19 PM »
Yes, I really doubt that studying in the UK is going to be cheaper than in the US. And keep in mind that taking on a lot of student loan debt is really something you should think through seriously. Student loan debt is the one type of debt that generally can't be discharged in bankruptcy.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2014, 09:24:24 PM by geeta »


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Re: Advice needed
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2014, 09:29:18 PM »
It's not a totally crazy idea, but as the others have said, it's not a cheap idea by any means.

But I am curious as to how you've come to the conclusion that it would be less expensive to study in the UK versus the US.  I haven't done any studies here, so I'm not too sure on the costs, but I think it can run about £25k a year for an international student for fees/living costs.  At the current exchange rate (the pound is continuing to strengthen) that's over $40k a year.

Yes, international student fees in the UK are usually around £12,000 to £15,000 per year, and in order to qualify for a student visa, you need at least the first year of tuition, plus either £7,200 in living costs (outside London), or £9,000 (inside London) available to you for the first year (either in your bank account or from a US loan).

So, that's between about £20,000 and £25,000 for just one year ($32,000 to $41,000), which you need to be able to show you have available to you before the student visa can be granted.

And after that first year, you still need to work out how you're going to fund the rest of the course (assuming it's a 3-year degree), paying the same amount in tuition fees each year, and a similar amount in living costs.


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Re: Advice needed
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2014, 05:52:25 AM »
Thank you all for your responses! I know all the costs and I've been around the block with student loans and know the consequences, etc. I think that's what's good about going into this as an adult rather than a freshly graduated teen - I know which mistakes to avoid, I know what I'm looking for, and I'm more well versed with how the financing works.

The average cost of a public, out of state college in the US is $22k+ and rising. This does not include cost of living which, depending on where you are, is another $10k+. So this $30k+ price tag is what would get me a rote learning education which would essentially be useless based on past experience. I could stay in state for much less but the education would be the same unless I go to one of my state's good universities which would also cost $40k+ per year (that's tuition alone). And even then, those good universities don't offer the kind of course I'm looking for. Reputable art schools can be anywhere from $20k-40k per year (tuition only) and tend to be located in cities that have a much higher cost of living.  And keep in mind that all those costs are multiplied by 4, not 3 which is how it would be in the UK.
No matter where I go I will have to work part time to cover every day expenses like food, transportation, housing, etc. Part time jobs in the US are typically minimum wage, so $7.25. At 20 hours per week, that's $145 per week before taxes. As minimum wage in the UK is about $3 higher I'd be able to cover more of my expenses with the same 20 hour work week.
Either way, I have a good chunk of savings that will help to satisfy the visa requirement and initial travel/moving costs.

Can you tell I've crunched a lot of numbers? :) Trying to justify the cost was my first big hurdle. The numbers are high everywhere so I may as well go where I WANT to go. I've let fear hold me back so many times - fear of debt, fear of failure - that it's actually keeping me from living my life while I'm young. And that sucks. As for not being able to stay in the UK after I graduate - I know. I don't expect to get to stay there. I mean it would be cool if I miraculously found a job or a husband but I'm going into this with the expectation that I will be moving home after three years.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2014, 06:07:08 AM by cloudsup »


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Re: Advice needed
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2014, 06:45:58 AM »
I know what it's like to want to get out and fulfil a dream like that. I considered an undergrad degree in the US (I'm British), but decided the out of state fees were too much (at the time UK fees were only £1,000 per year), and instead I did a year abroad in the US in my third year of undergrad and then went back for a PhD 4 years later.

No matter where I go I will have to work part time to cover every day expenses like food, transportation, housing, etc. Part time jobs in the US are typically minimum wage, so $7.25. At 20 hours per week, that's $145 per week before taxes. As minimum wage in the UK is about $3 higher I'd be able to cover more of my expenses with the same 20 hour work week.
Either way, I have a good chunk of savings that will help to satisfy the visa requirement and initial travel/moving costs.

In order to get the visa you have to show that you have enough money to support yourself in the UK WITHOUT working part-time... Which is where the £7,200 or £9,000 in living costs comes in.

Have you looked into cost of rent and bills and general living costs in the UK? While minimum wage is higher, cost of living is even higher - higher than the difference in minimum wage. If you were to study outside London, and lived in shared apartments or houses, you'd probably be looking at maybe £300-400 per mont for rent and bills, plus maybe £200 a month for food and transport. So, that's about £6,000 per year just to live, not including any social events or extra costs like clothes. In London, you would probably be paying much more - maybe £8,000 per year. If you worked the allowed 20 hours a week at minimum wage, your take-home salary would only be £126 per week, or £6,500 per year (you wouldn't be taxed though as you have to earn over £9,000 to be taxed).

In the US though, even though minimum wage is lower, rent and bills are generally much lower than the UK too, as are transport costs, clothes, toiletries, certain foods etc. (when I was a student in the US, I was paying $425 a month (about half of what it would cost in the UK) for a studio apartment, all bills included). You would be able to work more than 20 hours a week in the US, thereby earning more money and paying less rent.

I was an international PhD student in the US, receiving $12,000 in funding per year. That was more than enough to live on and I had plenty of disposable income, and in the space of 7 months I was able to afford 2 trips to visit relatives in another state, a trip to LA and a trip back to the UK. In the UK, I would have been receiving about £13,000 a year for a PhD, which is about 1.5 times more (with the currency conversion), yet I would have only just been able to live off it because of the higher costs of rent, bills and transport.

Not saying that you shouldn't come to the UK because of the living costs, of course it will depend on the overall costs and your budget, and as you say, the UK is only 3 years not 4 years of school. Just wanted to give an idea of likely costs of living in the UK vs. part-time earnings.


Re: Advice needed
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2014, 07:43:45 AM »
I don't want to shoot your dreams down in flames but, as ksand24 has said, the minimum wage is low in the UK. Add to that the maximum you can work is 20 hours per week and the fact that there is huge compettpition for employment...well, I'd plan for a large cushion of savings.

Have you ever visited the UK, know anyone who has recently studied in the UK who can share their experiences? I just want you to have a realistic expectation of how high the cost of living is in the UK.


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Re: Advice needed
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2014, 10:15:00 AM »
The UK isn't cheap. And I won't get started on the unfathomably ridiculous university tuition system - here & in the US (for goodness sake we need more education not less - it is our salvation).

I do deal with illustrators/graphic artists/etc on a pretty regular basis and it is not a dead profession by any means. In fact I would say that given the voracious appetite for imagery there is more work now in the field than at any time in the past. There are probably more people out there doing it though.

I too will say that the UK is a great place culturally for the arts. I knock it for a lot of things, but from gaming to art to theatre to music and television - it is the place in the western world. For an artist I can't think of a better place for cultural enrichment and for collaboration with other artists. London in particular is a stew of cultures and differing backgrounds - a true metropolitan experience. Edinburgh also has a vibrant and growing artistic scene.

All that being said, take a peak at Germany. From a recent BBC article:

"Among the attractions for international students is the increasing availability in Germany of courses taught entirely in English, so much so that students can complete degrees without ever having to speak German."

"But one of the attractions of Germany is that overseas students do not pay any more in tuition fees than home students. Universities in many parts of Germany do not charge any tuition fees, which means in those places overseas students do not pay any fees at all."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12610268

I keep reading stuff like this.


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Re: Advice needed
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2014, 04:01:47 PM »
Thanks again for all the responses! I hope this does not sound rude as that is certainly not my intent and I really am grateful for all the input, but I'd like to stress again how well I know what I'd be getting into here, especially finance-wise. ksand, perhaps I didn't word it correctly but what I meant is that I have savings to cover the visa requirements, not that I'm expecting part time work income to supplement them. It may be worth mentioning that I didn't even apply anywhere near London - mostly due to higher costs but I also couldn't really find any programs that interested me. Come to thinking of it, I didn't even apply anywhere in the south of the country except for Falmouth (because you really can't NOT apply to Falmouth when looking into an arts degree...:) ).

Cost of living is a tricky thing since it varies so greatly depending on where you live. If you look at the averaged numbers, the UK is most definitely higher than the US; unfortunately when trying to budget for a specific and personal situation, averages are limited in their usefulness. For example, the city I live in is not a major US city but it is good for niche tourism so it is basically really expensive without actually being a particularly nice place to live. It is well above the average US cost of living numbers. We also have a fairly high sales tax which doesn't help. Of course there are much cheaper places to live but the problem is that they aren't necessarily where the schools are - especially the art schools.
As I've said, the US art schools worth going to are not only grossly overpriced, they are in very expensive areas. This is either because they are in large cities (Chicago, New york), historical/"hip" cities made hipper by a bunch of art students milling around (Savannah), or in places that just naturally have a high cost of living (California). So the relatively low US cost of living averages wouldn't necessarily apply - and when I talk about the high cost of living of those places I'm not even taking into account the individual state income/property/sales taxes.  Another thing I've taken into consideration is that some of my largest expenses here are things I wouldn't be dealing with in the UK - health insurance, car insurance & payments/fuel (though I know I still have to take transportation costs into consideration), and income taxes. I'm sure that there will be expenses to fill their place but these are a good thing to think about when trying to balance out the cost between both places.
Anyway, all of that being said, I've never been under the delusion that the UK is particularly cheap. When I said "cheaper" I meant in comparison to art school/"good school" PLUS living costs in the US as well as taking into consideration the shorter course. I guess I should have clarified that. :) While my initial "am I crazy question" wasn't actually in regard to finances I can understand the concern in that department and why that's where the conversation has been focused.

Fruitgum, as I said in my first post, I've been to the UK more than a few times and have several friends there, so having local references isn't something I lack. I wouldn't even be considering this had I not been there before - I wouldn't be brave enough!

Sonofasailor, you raise good points about illustration and have actually touched on some of the reasons why the UK is my top choice for it. Even though I wouldn't be in London it wouldn't be totally inaccessible. I'd still have many opportunities to be exposed to the art culture there - and that's awesome! It's a bit harder to find that accessibility in the US since we are so spread out. Even if you go to a place like SCAD which is in a city rich with art culture,  you don't find the same diversity (multicultural and otherwise) that you would from say, New York. And of course that would require a very costly trip up the coast.


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Re: Advice needed
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2014, 04:14:46 PM »
So no, you don't sound crazy. You sound like someone who really wants to be in the UK and is willing to do what it takes to make that happen.


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Re: Advice needed
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2014, 04:40:34 PM »
Not that I am biased, but.....
 
Have you ever considered studying art in Canada? Definitely more cost effective on all fronts and you can get a work permit post degree.  

Some good ones are:

Fine Arts:

Emily Carr
http://www.ecuad.ca/

Nova Scotia College of Art & Design
http://nscad.ca/

For writing,

Concordia
http://www.concordia.ca/academics/undergraduate/creative-writing.html

UVic
http://finearts.uvic.ca/writing/

University Rankings more generally:
http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2012/11/01/2013-university-rankings/

Canada Study permits
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/applications/student.asp

Plus, there's the post study visa
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/study/work-postgrad.asp

Bonuses would be less culture shock, likely cheaper, closer to home, more options to stay after finishing to name a few!  ;)

ETA: If art is your thing + proximity to UK, I'd plump for Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, if it was me.  

ETA 2: Also they may have exchange programmes with UK unis:
http://nscad.ca/en/home/studentresources/offcampusstudy/exchange/default.aspx
« Last Edit: February 05, 2014, 05:15:49 PM by mapleleafgirl72 »


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Re: Advice needed
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2014, 04:42:14 PM »
I believe the OP stated she has a significant other in the UK that she wants to be with.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2014, 04:46:54 PM by geeta »


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Re: Advice needed
« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2014, 04:48:02 PM »
Haha, thanks geeta. I'm glad to know I don't sound crazy. I am glad I'm being challenged though. Humans have an amazing ability to rationalize anything as long as they want it badly enough. I guess I just want to make sure that I'm not pseudo rationalizing and that my reasoning here is actually sound. Gotta fight those cognitive biases sometimes.

Those Canada resources are fantastic and I'm going to have a look once I get home from work. Geeta is right about me being close to someone in the UK but that is not my primary reason for pursuing University there so I'm open to exploring other options if they're better.
But I will say that it would probably take a lot to change my mind since this is something I've been considering for a few years now.


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Re: Advice needed
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2014, 04:52:02 PM »
I believe the OP stated she has a significant other in the UK that she wants to be with.

Fair enough. Dependent on the age / qualifications of the Brit, or if they want to study, then could both go to Canada.

Working Holiday visa for Brits to go to Canada  
http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/united_kingdom-royaume_uni/experience_canada_experience/working_holiday-vacances_travail.aspx

To immigrate:
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/apply.asp

ETA: Otherwise, for places like Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, it's relatively close to the UK, with frequent flights.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2014, 05:01:53 PM by mapleleafgirl72 »


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Re: Advice needed
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2014, 09:01:10 PM »
I want to thank every one for the responses to this thread when I originally posted it, and provide an update. (Not that anyone asked but I'm still excited, so...)

I've accepted an offer from Falmouth University and will be moving over in September. I just paid my rent deposit for a really lovely little flat not far from campus. I'm excited and nervous but I think that it will be what's best for me, in the end.


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