• What my degree cost me

    800px-GraduationIt’s going to cost me $75 to graduate *splutter* what with all the graduation regalia I have to hire. I could just NOT do the ceremony…but I’m a ceremonial type. I like events. I like pomp and circumstance (well, within reason). I attended all school awards and prizegivings, went to our 2006 high school leaver’s dinner (paying something like $65 to sit at a table and eat dinner with my friends, ignoring the majority of the rest of our year whom I hated), did my best to be in every class photo and saved all my yearbooks. It’s our chance to be recognised for our work over the past three years and I’m going to be there, dammit!

    But I’ve been pretty lucky in terms of education costs. I had a scholarship which covered almost all my tuition over the three years – looking back in my records, I paid (out of pocket) just $1358. That’s $644 this year, $212 in 2008 and $182 for 2007.

    I got away with buying very few books – and got most of those secondhand. I’d say I spent under $150 on textbooks.

    Stationery I got a lot of from work for free – pens, reporter’s notebooks and the like. Let’s say I bought two folders and two pads of refill a year – that’s $36. I also had to buy a bunch of extra arty gear – special pens, paper etc for my advertising paper last year, which cost about $40. For photography, I used the old SLR I had from high school, but film and paper together probably cost me $250. I also bought a digital voice recorder this year, which to be honest, I’ve hardly used. Most of my interviews were done over the phone, and I never got around to getting a pluggy thing to connect it up…I could totally have got away without buying it. That cost me $120.

    Finally, bus fares. I would have had to bus into town for work anyway, but I’ll include it all. At 13 weeks a semester and two semesters a year, $27 a week (rounded) comes to $2106 over three years.

    So a rough total puts me at $2029 in directly related costs, plus $2106 in travel. That’s $4135, or roughly the cost of a year’s tuition alone. Can’t really complain.

    (My post on the cost of eating out is in this week’s Carnival of Personal Finance, hosted by M is for Money!)

    Photo / Quimbero

  • A charmed life!

    Things just keep changing and I can’t keep up! But they’re changing for the better, I promise.

    Update on the job front:

    This week I was told there a couple of projects about to start at work, apparently, and if I wanted it I could have fulltime work for sure until at least Christmas and possibly beyond, depending on how it goes. What did I say? Well, of COURSE I said, “I’ll take it!”

    This means I’m back to regular hours and weekends off for now. YAY!! I promptly dashed off an email to the manager I was due to meet the next morning (interviewing for the PT subediting job) regretfully declining. That worked out nicely – although it could potentially have paid quite well, I would be paying secondary tax, not to mention shunting myself between their office and my “main” job throughout the week. Did I mention it was NOT in the CBD and would have taken me two buses to get there?

    So I’ve had a bit of a reprieve and can breathe easy for at least a couple of months. Even if I do have to revert to the part time, odd shifts afterward, I can then look for PT/casual work as well as I’ll have mornings off (plus a Friday; I’m sure I could handle a six day week if necessary).

    Then straight after all this I got a call from another editor, the one who had my details passed on to him. I’m due to see him next week; I’m not sure how that will go and how that might work now that I do have fulltime hours for at least the rest of the year, but we’ll see how it goes. It didn’t sound like they would need too much time from me, and possibly I could do a lot of it from home and on my own time.

    Oooh, exciting times are ahead.

    Anyway, tonight to celebrate the END OF UNIVERSITY, our class is gathering for a combined drinks/meet editors and important media people function. I can’t let too loose or stay too long, because soon as I can I’m outta there! T will be picking me up and we’ll be driving five hours up north to stay at a friend’s bach for the long weekend. Thank you  Labour Day!

    It’s going to be great; absolutely lazy and leisurely. No more staying up nights hammering out assignments. And even better, I also have Tuesday off..so don’t technically have to be back for almost five days (freedom is priceless :D). BLISS!

  • Where to?

    Those of us with partners who’ve been laid off – or have experienced it themselves – know just how disheartening, demoralising and downright depressing it is. It’s been a year now – a WHOLE year – I cannot believe it.

    Let’s get one thing out of the way. It’s not a lack of ambition that is T’s problem; it’s more like a lack of direction. Not all people know what they want to do in life, although this seems more acceptable if you’re female (it’s okay, increasingly, to say you just want to be a wife/mother/homemaker; not so much for a guy to say the equivalent).

    I’m very proud of him for having finished his course, and he now knows he can apply to university and that he can do it. Jumping into the academic world isn’t easy when you’ve been out of it for years, and when you’re not super academically inclined in the first place.

    He may not be a straight-A  student, but neither am I, and I shouldn’t expect him to be – as long as I do my best, I’m happy, and that’s the same standard I should hold him to.

    If he simply wants to work whatever job he can get, that’s fine – but having been absolutely bollocked by the recession, I’m wary of that path. In the longterm, I firmly believe that having a qualification (trade or otherwise) is essential.

    So, I guess I don’t really know where to from here. I’m not expecting him to come up with a 50 year plan, but I do expect him to have some sort of direction. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

    We’ve clashed over this lots of times – he always reiterates: “I wouldn’t care if we were living out of a car, as long as we have each other.” Call me heartless, call me unromantic but there are some lines I’m not willing to cross.

    At the moment, he’s fired up about one of our flatmate’s fathers, who is keen to start up a business and employ both of them. Not a career type of job – just a job. He’s been to the careers counsellors at uni, who clarified the options that we’d already settled on, without giving him anything definitive. He could go ahead with the plan to become a teacher, or he could try to get trade qualified in engineering/fabrication, which is what he was working before. (Or the army, again…something he’s increasingly talking about).

    It’s October now, and I thought he would have a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do. It looks like uni is out of the picture, at least for the first semester of 2010 – applications aren’t going to stay open forever. I’ve spent many hours late at night sitting up with him helping him with assignments. I feel I’ve invested a lot of energy into this, and although there’s no way I’d ever force him to do anything, I really do think carrying on with study would be in his best interests.

    Whether he could stay motivated through the three years, slogging through papers that he might not enjoy (some he definitely won’t) would be another challenge. For me, I see deadly dull core papers as a necessary evil, but I plough through anyway. To him, he’s so disinterested that he doesn’t put effort in. And that’s something you have to deal with at university.

    I know I keep saying I want a crystal ball…..but I really, really, do!!

  • Four weeks to go!

    Or three and a half now, actually.

    Although I roughly know how much I have to do in that time, there’s so much packed in I can’t face it. No to-do lists for me – that’s way too overwhelming. One step at a time. I’m taking it day by day and I know in the end I’ll get it all finished, in my own disorganised way.

    For example, tonight my main focus is compiling a CV to go in the “yearbook” that’s going to be sent out to a bunch of editors (a couple of whom are my current bosses…) so it’s gotta be good – and truthful!

    I’m also going to plug away at one of the three features I have left to write.

    Today I had my worst interview ever to date. Actually, let’s back that up; we didn’t even get to that stage. Basically, this was a person a contact recommended I call as she was an expert on a particular topic. I rang her on the work phone number given to me, only to be told she was no longer with the company. I got back online, tracked down her cell phone, and called it – only to wake her up at 2am in Europe. UGH.

    Thankfully, the next call I made went a lot better and we talked for about half an hour. Turns out South Africa and Malaysia have more in common than I thought. (I even surprised myself by remembering the Malay word for banana  – pisang – which apparently means the same thing in Afrikaans!)

  • Real life courtrooms

    I recently got to sit in at a sentencing at the High Court. It was not an auspicious start. I was running late due to a phone interview running overtime. Then when I stepped outside, I found it was raining, and the downpour of course stopped once we reached the court fifteen minutes later – soaking, bedraggled, with the only dry parts of me being my back (wtf??). My hair was limp, damp and straggly, and I couldn’t see out my waterlogged glasses. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if we hadn’t been allowed in, considering our state.

    Luckily, there were no metal detectors this time; last week my fork got confiscated at the district court and I couldn’t work out where to retrieve it from afterwards. I ended up going over to the AU campus to eat so I could pinch a plastic fork. Good times.

    I think we all know that law in action is nothing like law on TV. It’s certainly nowhere near as exciting and snappy as on Boston Legal. The actual sentencing took nearly an hour. I expected a flowing, succinct speech. Instead, the judge spent most of it flipping through pages and pages of documents, spending approximately as much time referring back to notes as he did in actually speaking. (That coupled with his pace of speech meant it was ridiculously easy to take notes – in long hand even). It was more halting than anything, and it was tempting to tune out. Don’t get me wrong. The judge was extremely articulate and delivered some excellent lines. And I understand the need to refer back through notes, given the vast amount of paperwork that would have gone into that case. It was just somewhat hard to stay engaged through all the page turning and lengthy pauses. Give me TV courtrooms any day.

  • Selling journalism

    Sometimes I feel like nothing but a telemarketer.

    That’s right, I feel like a salesperson pitching crap to people over the phone.

    Is it really so different? You’re calling people, who you’ve most likely never spoken to before. You’re trying to get them to talk to you. To answer your questions. Sometimes they don’t want to, and they’ll do everything in their power to wriggle free. You try and try, you rephrase, you try to sell yourself. Sometimes it just plain doesn’t work.

    You try to coax the magic quote out of them. To get them to elaborate, to keep them talking, keep them listening. If it’s a controversial topic, something they don’t want to discuss, you try to get around that in the way you word your query. And you need the balls to keep asking, to keep hammering away.

    I realised this because today, I dealt with someone who was happy to talk to me. Someone not used to the media, someone genuine, someone whose story I just wanted to hear and who was happy to share it.

    It was just a relief. Such a welcome change from weary, wary people – and don’t get me wrong, I can more than understand WHY many of them are that way – who are afraid to utter a single word on the record, even when it’s totally non controversial, and actually in their interests.

    It made me realise how differently I can, and need to, handle ordinary people. Not business people, not politicians, who we have to hound and harangue constantly, and usually to no avail. People who actually return calls, and emails, and even pick up their phone sometimes. Perhaps even more amazing, today I received immediate responses from one political office. I took the measure of emailing two separate people with the same enquiry, expecting to hear back from neither. But both replied within the hour. I almost felt stupid and amateurish, even though the opposite was true.

  • The conundrum of choice

    Not surprisingly, BF’s having a lot of second thoughts about what he wants to do, you know, with the rest of his life.

    He is still keen on teaching. But what? teaching

    He says he would be happy to do early childhood – pretty much a guaranteed job, and free tuition. But it’s not what he really wants to do in the long run. And though he has lots of experience dealing with young ‘uns, I think he’s the kind of person who needs more stimulating, adult interaction. (And realistically, let’s face it, no matter how much they speak of shortages, and say more men are needed in primary and early childhood education, people are WARY of men who want to work among young children.) His original plan was to teach primary and intermediate aged kids, but now he’s quite keen to teach high school.

    That’s going to require a fair bit of study…and money!

    We’re talking a BA – in whatever, media studies, classics, history, or a mix – and then a postgrad diploma in teaching. Three years for the bachelor’s and one year for the post grad. Maybe $15k for undergrad and a similar amount for post?

    I’m not expecting him to have made up his mind at this point – that would be ridiculous. Just sounding off possibilities, because planning is important when it comes to education.

    Either way, I’m sure while doing his course next semester he’ll be introduced to so many new and interesting things, he could yet change his mind still.

  • You gotta earn it first…

    From my conversation the other week with the New Start peeps at Auckland Uni, I don’t think its a bad thing for applicants to have to earn their entrance into uni. But I think it sucks that they introduced an open policy like that, and are now retracting it. I can only assume it’s to do with costcutting and a lack of funding for universities. They’re not even going to have enough to pay for the influx of students trying to weather the recession, so why make it easier for anyone to get in? Just like they cut the few scholarships Studylink provide, which were good because they were pretty open to anyone. There are very few scholarships out there with broad criteria. Most are very narrowly tailored and targeted only at specific kinds of people.

    But it seems short sighted to me. As pointed out in this week’s Debate, young people who can’t get jobs and can’t go to uni will just end up on the dole, which is government funded anyway. I don’t claim to know much about this stuff, but if it’s at all feasible to help universities accommodate students, that seems smarter than, well, NOT. I’d rather see investment in a more educated/skilled workforce.

    And on the heels of this – Pita Sharples calling for Maori to have free entry into uni. JUST as they axe special admission for adults. Could the timing be any worse? At least there is zero chance of that happening at this point in time. Race based policies may have their place, but this is not the time!  From now, everyone will have to sit foundation courses to gain university entry, so let’s apply that across the board.

  • I’m pretty excited for BF to start his course. It won’t be easy with both of us studying, but his workload will be pretty light in comparison with mine because his course is a part time one designed to fit in with work/family commitments.

    The programme manager said if he did well she would be happy to write him a character recommendation for his application next year! Which is just fabulous – and she hasn’t even met him! We went to the info evening on Tuesday to find out more. At the mo it’s a bit up in the air because WINZ have confirmed they will pay his course fee for him. He’s been in to see his case worker, filled out the course participation application form, and received back a slip of paper confirming fees will be paid in five weeks (a few days before course starts, because “you never know what could happen in five weeks…” Yeah, okay.) Except the uni peeps say he needs to bring in a form to THEM, get their bank account number and get that to WINZ so they know where to pay it to. WINZ don’t seem too onto it. And I know they don’t care – no one is there to look out for his best interests – so we have to chase whoever needs chasing to ensure he gets everything sorted in time.

    She also recommended he do one or two “learning workshops”. Apparently a lot of students haven’t been writing essays and stuff at university level and have been struggling. Which is understandable. But the workshops are pretty pricey – from $100, what’s up with that? At AUT they’re free. I did have a look around the Auckland Uni site and they do have other learning workshops which appear to be free or nearly free, but they’re not so in depth and they’re very specific. IE, instead of “essay writing intensive” there are workshops on referencing, paragraphing, writing to marking criteria, etc.

    I figure I’ll be able to help him out quite a bit. We’ll take a stab and if together we can’t get him up to scratch then he can enrol in one of those. I mean, I’m a comms major, I did English a year ahead all through school, have generally always kicked ass at essay writing and tutored English for a bit. BF is pretty confident too, as always. Even when I told him that they’re phasing out special admission entry for over 20s, and he definitely needs a solid B+ to guarantee entry to a degree next year.

  • Feeling pretty good – I think I did pretty well on the exam, and OH MY LORD does it feel good to know I’ll never sit another one again!

    Out of the three topics I wrote about, I had already written essays on two during the semester. And then there was the NZ section. I toyed with writing about the 1987 stockmarket crash, or the privatisation of Telecom, but in the end I chose privacy and surveillance. Privacy was my topic of choice for a couple of reasons: there wasn’t a lot of theory to learn, and it genuinely interested me. And the more relevant a subject is for me, the better I’m going to do. Simple.

    I suppose on the face of it, NZ isn’t all that bad. We don’t have extensive CCTV on the streets like in London. Our credit files are pretty sparse in comparison to the States, where it’s reported to credit bureaus every month whether you pay your bills on time, and health insurance companies know every minutiae of your medical history.

    There was apparently a huge ruckus in the 90s when they introduced photographs onto driver’s licences. Honestly, I never even knew there was a time when licences didn’t bear photos and were merely printed on paper. Photos? We don’t even bat an eye. Where would most of us young’uns be without them? Our licences are our primary forms of ID. If you don’t have one, you can’t get into bars/clubs/pubs unless you want to buy a HANZ 18plus card, and in that case you might as well pay to sit your learner’s.

    How much do you value anonymity? I can’t put an amount to it. I’m definitely becoming more aware of what details I dispense, and to who. I’m becoming more discerning of what I post online and how I conduct myself IRL, especially anything that might be recorded. if I’m going to be working in the media industry, it’s only wise.

    But at the same time, anonymity seems to be a concept that’s becoming more and more antiquated. Nowadays you have to market yourself. Selling yourself might mean establishing a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (how sick am I of seeing those three names bandied around together???) and more. Off the top of my head, a really good example is Julia Allison. She basically lives her whole life in the social media spotlight. It’s not something I’d like for myself, but she strove for this and she’s achieved it.

    The older you get, the more you have to reveal about yourself. Applying for loans. Applying for jobs. Applying to university. Even applying for a place to live! I remember looking at places last year. One agency in particular had a heinously long application form which required income, source of income, and even bank account number (and that was a big firm too!!) – can you say dodgy? I’m not sure what, if anything, they could do with your bank account number, but I certainly was not comfortable disclosing that. There are some things I’m comfortable giving out, but that was out of line.