scared of the big leap
September 16, 2007 7:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm on the brink of possibly changing my life. However, logistical and emotional issues are in the way. What on Earth should I do? (warning: More Inside is looooooong)

I'm currently in my second year of university (arts management and creative writing) in Australia as an international student and I'm hating it. Australia is a fine country, and my uni isn't too terrible, but the experience of university is killing me. I hate academic writing, or rather writing on command - I love research, but I'd rather be doing it on my own basis rather than on subjects I'm not so sure about. For some reason half the subjects for my arts management submajor are performance/theatre related, and due to my lack of theatre background I'm feeling very lost and disconnected. (They aren't even Theatre 101 subjects, but more advanced material.) I took creative writing classes because I had a passion for writing, but having my work cut down for lack of publishability (even if it was a fine work on its own) is demotivating. Or maybe I just detest homework, I don't know.

Granted, I am going through depression (have been diagnosed & under some form of treatment over the past 5 years) so that may be clouding my opinion of university to an extent. There are also a couple of classes that I've found highly fascinating - but 2 classes out of 12 just aren't enough, and it feels like university is the major contributor of the depression. Overall I find the university experience to be too much pontificating about what Academic A or Academic B has to say about "liminal space" or whatever, and less about what's happening in the real world and how to make that work for our projects (the two classes that I found fascinating were far more grounded and real-world and I wished my whole degree were subjects like those!). I'm good with project proposals, or actual projects, and while I can actually write good academic papers I find the process stifling and boring.

I have a very experiential way of learning, so academic styles don't really work for me. I also work best with personal individualized guidance, which I'm not really getting. I find more happiness and fulfillment in the different volunteer work and events I do outside uni, than on anything I'm doing as a uni assignment. Indeed, this semester I've spent more time in conferences (which are fun and great learning experiences) than in actual class time, though I am getting my work in on time.

It's gotten to the point that I really NEED a change. I mainly went to university in the first place to fulfil expectations of getting a degree. My previous university screwed me (and many others) over, so I left and went on a life-changing educational tour, followed by a few months of working while I applied and waited for jobs for the company that did the tour. I didn't get the job I hoped for, so I went to uni instead. It was a HUGE adjustment, having come from overseas, and I thought I'd slog through it hoping for things to get better, but one and a half years on, I'm just feeling so DEAD and so DEPRESSED and DEMOTIVATED. I've spent many nights the past few weeks crying because I didn't know what to do.

I talked to my psychologist about it, and about my fear of offending my family. I've felt that the degree was more for them than for me (I've found through experience that I could pretty much survive without one, as the things I'm interested in don't really need a degree) and whenever I've tried to bring it up before, it turned into a fight. After a few weeks of thinking, I wrote an email to everyone and waited in trepidation. To my surprise, my family said that I should do whatever makes me happy - as long as I fund it myself. I don't HAVE to get a degree for them, but they all said the same thing: I'm here in Australia to get a better passport.

I have a Bangladesh passport. It sucks. I need visas for EVERYWHERE and can't go many places as a young tourist. I have Malaysian PR, but even though we applied for citizenship (and even though I was born in the country and spent most of my life there) I am no closer to getting citizenship there. The theory was that by getting a degree in Australia, I would be far closer in getting an Australian PR (and eventually passport) than I would anywhere else. However, with all sorts of rules and legislation changes, my degree doesn't really get me anywhere. It doesn't lead to a "skilled job" with enough points, it's not a high-demand occupation, and I don't live in a regional area. I'm generally cynical about immigration anyway; I figure at this rate I'm permanently stateless. So my decisions to do things don't hinge on whether I can get a passport there or not.

I have one year of university left, and I was hoping to use the first semester of that year to go on exchange - the change of scenery would do me good, and when I come back I only have one semester left so it wouldn't be too hard. About 20 minutes ago, though, I just got notified that (due to issues on their end) my exchange isn't successful, so there goes that idea - and the only thing really tying me to this university. I'm not entirely sure what to do.

I have a few options in mind:

a) Continue on the volunteer/youth conference curcuit for a while. It's what I enjoy doing, but I won't really earn any money, and I have limited funds.

b) Go on a study-abroad trip with a private company. I've been accepted for one, but it's so expensive and all my money would be gone.

c) Get a job in Australia. They're there, and I have plenty of experience and drive to qualify, but visas become a hassle.

d) Go back to Malaysia. I'm not fond of that country though so I don't know what I'll do there.

e) Go back to Malaysia and implement some projects I have in mind. Slightly better choice, but I have no idea how to do so! And I still have so many things I want to experience.

f) Move to another country and do something else. Visas, again. And I'd miss my boyfriend (he's pretty supportive of me though)

g) Transfer to a university that has more of what i'm after. Most of them are in the US (the Colleges That Change Lives type unis) but I don't know if I can handle the whole rigamarole of visas and applications and academic writing and such.

h) Change my degree to Social Work, Community Development, or Human Services. I've found that this is closer to my passion than my current one (which are passions too but not as strong as these ones) but again, lots of logistical hassle, and I don't want university to kill my love for those two areas.

I'm stuck. I feel immobile. All this ideas but also all these blocks. I've been emailing people for ideas, but I have no idea where to go.

Should I stay on my degree and slog it out for another year?

Should I drop out, do the degree by distance, change degrees, change universities?

Should I travel, find work elsewhere?

Is there an International Passport for "Stateless" people like me?

What shall I do? This is the scariest thing I'ver ever considered and I don't know where to begin.
posted by divabat to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
g) Transfer to a university that has more of what i'm after. Most of them are in the US (the Colleges That Change Lives type unis) but I don't know if I can handle the whole rigamarole of visas and applications and academic writing and such.

You will be able to finish your last year in Oz and graduate in less time than it will take to research, apply to, and start taking classes at a US college, not to mention most schools will demand that you take at least two years of classes in residence to graduate from there; limited financial aid for foreign students; etc. So unless you have a clearer sense of why option G is the best for you, I would discount it. (Moreover, right now "Homeland Security" is doing all it possibly can to encourage bright overseas students to instead attend schools in Australia and Europe by refusing visas, adding costs, and having ridiculous delays. Getting a student visa to the US right now is not at all guaranteed, and may not be worth the trouble if you are already legal to study in Aus.)

I hate academic writing, or rather writing on command - I love research, but I'd rather be doing it on my own basis rather than on subjects I'm not so sure about.

I don't mean to be gloomy and unhelpful, but if you think academic writing is bad, and academic research is stultifying, try doing those two things on command in a cubicle for a company. Getting paid to do research "on your own basis" is called a) being independently wealthy, b) marrying well, or c) going to graduate school. (Obviously there are a bunch of other options, like freelance writing and being a resident scholar for an enlightened company, but not all that many people make those options work for them.)

But I'm not responding to the main issues here, which I think are a combination of the depression, family pressures, and a very normal sense of uncertainty about the future. I almost dropped out of college at the point you are at, and I wasn't depressed and had none of your visa issues to worry about -- it is a point that can be a real hurdle to get past.

If you have any clear path to take that will get you a "better" (meaning more empowering, better access to travel, work, and other opportunities, etc) passport, I think you would be very well advised to take it. If it means sucking things up and finishing a degree you don't totally care for, or finding work, or whatever, I suspect that the added practical value of the Australian passport will over time far outweigh the short term costs. I think your family is right, and that focusing on the passport is the right thing to deal with right now. That's more important than the specifics of the degree, more important than money, more important than most things, because it will open up so many choices down the road.
posted by Forktine at 8:06 PM on September 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'm stuck. I feel immobile.

From my point of view you need to figure out (with a lawyer, a good immigration forum, by talking to family, whatever) the easiest path to get another passport. Whether that's UK, Canada, US, Aus, or wherever else. My husband is also from Bangladesh, and this fact has caused us more headaches, missed opportunities and problems over the years than I can tell you. I understand what a handicap it is. He's almost a Canadian citizen now, and the load it's lifting off our shoulders is priceless. I know nothing about Australian visas or passports, but if hanging on by your fingernails for one more year can get you further down that path, then I would strongly consider finishing out your degree.
posted by jamesonandwater at 8:14 PM on September 16, 2007

Woah! That's a lot to digest...

...due to my lack of theatre background I'm feeling very lost and disconnected.

Regarding your classes and course direction have bothered to speak with your advisers or department head?

I'm sure you're not the first down and out student they have had to contend with, and they are in a better position to help you with your direction (school-wise) than anyone else. Communicate with them! Let them know how you feel...

university is the major contributor of the depression.

The university is a collection of inanimate buildings and benign people who don't want to inflict depression on anyone. The university isn't a contributor to your depression, your brain chemistry and (possibly) lifestyle are...

I have a very experiential way of learning, so academic styles don't really work for me.

Again, talk to your college... explain this too them.

It was a HUGE adjustment, having come from overseas, and I thought I'd slog through it hoping for things to get better, but one and a half years on, I'm just feeling so DEAD and so DEPRESSED and DEMOTIVATED.

Don't underestimate the role your depression is playing in your life. If you haven't sought help then do so. Dealing with depression is it own long hard "slog" but once you get that under control then the challenges presented by your school will seem minuscule by comparison...

I have one year of university left

A year will fly. You've already been through so much, it would be a shame to pack it all in just because your depression got the better of you...

I have a few options in mind:

Your options number A through H! Christ, narrow it down to two or three choices, weigh the pros and cons, and then make a decision!

I'm stuck. I feel immobile. All this ideas but also all these blocks.

Again, what you're communicating makes it sound like your depression is running your life.

Stay in school.

Get help.

Communicate, communicate, communicate with your friends, family, and school. Your school wants you succeed - start there.

You'll be fine. Hang in there.
posted by wfrgms at 8:17 PM on September 16, 2007

I just want to whole-heartedly second everything that Forktine just said and I hope that you seriously consider his advice.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:20 PM on September 16, 2007

The thing with the Australian passport though is that even my degree (if I'd get this one) doesn't make any sort of difference. It's not a highly-skilled job area, it doesn't get me enough points, it's not a job on demand. As it is, I'm having trouble trying to convert all my experiences and knowledge into a neat 2-word job title, but that's what immigration makes us do. I'm not sure I'm prepared to go through yet another year of pain for something that ends up not helping me at all. And the rules change every year anyway so who knows.

I'm not pressured for time really; even if it takes longer than usual, if I'm in a more fulfilling spot I'm happy to spend as much time as needed. If I stuck on with my first uni (back in Malaysia) I'd graduate this year, but I'm so glad I'm not there.

Forktine: I don't HAVE to get a research job. The jobs/opportunities I've looked at that attract me are more practical and experiential - facilitating events, working with young people, connecting people together. As far as research goes, I've met people who work in non-profits who research topics related to their organization - that sounds great, because you get to work on issues you care about, not just issues a lecturer thinks you should care about. Hmm, I should ask her how she got to do what she does...

jamesonandwater: It's such a pain isn't it?! I'm lucky to have managed to get what I did, though it is largely because my dad had a good high-profile job and could be my backer. He's retiring this year though, so I don't quite have that support. Is getting Canadian citizenship easy? My dad seems to think that as long as you're a university graduate, you get automatic PR, but I doubt it's as easy as that.

wfrgms: I've asked the assistant course coordinator about it and she said she didn't know why the subjects were arranged like that. The irony is that I actually beat out 5 other people for a scholarship in this faculty!! Also, there's going to be changes in my faculty subject-wise which will be announced tomorrow, so I'll have to wait until then to find out what exactly is going on. Maybe I'll get some answers then. I feel like I didn't really make great subject choices when I started, and now it's coming back to bite me.

I can see the logic in staying in school, but I'm not entirely sure I can stand one more year of pain (well, rather, apathy and demotivation). I'm LIGHT YEARS different when I am in an alternative setting, like a conference or a volunteer job. Like seriously, light switch. And yes I know it's the brain chemistry and my body etc etc, and I'm getting those treated, but I'm also highly affected by my environment and an uninspiring unrelatable atmosphere is murder to me. Sometimes I wonder if what I'm hoping for is an utopia, but surely places like those exist (and last longer than a few days or months)!
posted by divabat at 8:56 PM on September 16, 2007

I went through your list of options, trying to do pros and cons (this is a horrible mixture of what I know about you filtered through my attitudes - sorry!).

a) Continue on the volunteer/youth conference circuit for a while. Pro: good work, enjoyable. Con: no money, is it a longterm option?

b) Go on a study-abroad trip with a private company. Pro: great experience, keep you at uni towards that paper. Con: money

c) Get a job in Australia. Pro: would make money, have friends/bf here. Con: visa hassle, is it a longterm option?

d) Go back to Malaysia. Pro: comfort zone, money would be ok?, could implement some projects you have in mind. Con: no real goals here, just passing time till you could do something else?

f) Move to another country and do something else. Pro: something new. Con:Visas, money?, no boyfriend, no specific plans for the future

g) Transfer to a cooler university in another country. Pro: get a piece of paper, enjoy yourself, study something interesting. Con: might not enjoy it anyway, visas, money, at least a year to organise?

h) Stay where you are but study something different. Pro: no visa issues, step towards solving visas forever, money is already taken care of, boyfriend/friends are here?. Con: one/two years of slog, really just to get a piece of paper.

I assume that money is actually quite important, so for me that would rule out options b and g. I think that dropping out of uni without some specific plan for what else I was going to do would make me even more depressed, so that makes d and f bad choices. However, if you really wanted to (and could afford to) take a semester off, a or d might be worth doing just as a break (they don't sound like longterm options). c sounds tempting, but not as helpful in the longterm as h.

I looked up the points test for skilled immigration to Australia, and although IANAL, I Know Nothing About This, etc etc, it looks like a degree in Social Work (or Human Services?) and hence qualification as a Social Worker, on the Skilled Occupations List, should make you eligible for skilled immigration.

Therefore, changing your degree at QUT would be a positive step in two directions: possibly more interesting/fulfilling study, and closer to having a more convenient passport, and as a bonus there would be no need for any visa struggles to make it happen. Apparently there's a new degree in Social Work available from next year: you could try and switch into that with advanced standing, which would mean you had two years remaining, or maybe the current Human Services one would be easier. Maybe you could think of it as a means to an end - every piece of assessment you pass/crappy assignment you have to do is in place of ten stupid, time-consuming and expensive visa applications in your future.

Obviously you should consult an actual immigration lawyer before making a decision for these reasons, but you should be able to get in touch with someone through the student union.
posted by jacalata at 8:58 PM on September 16, 2007

jacalanta: you're pretty spot on; however, deferring (or even doing something else for a semester that ain't through uni) cancels my visa. And changing degrees involves some visa hassle as well, though that's still an option (and a bit better than deferring, since I still have a visa at the end of it). Macquarie has a Global Leadership program where going to conferences and study abroad trips actually count for your degree, so that's another thing I'm exploring.

What is the difference between Social Work and Human Services anyway?

Just as an aside: I would REALLY LOVE to go on something like the KaosPilots (DK, NL, both links in English). 3 years of training in social entrepreneurship, international travel, real-life work experience. Applications are closed unfortunately, but does anyone else know of things like these that I could explore?
posted by divabat at 9:31 PM on September 16, 2007

Seconding that coming to a US school with a Bangladeshi passport and no money -- if you can even get the visa -- will be more expensive (uni is more expensive here) and time-consuming (to get a degree you'll probably have to do 2 years in residence here). Small colleges in the US can be truly great, much more personal and supportive than a large uni, but consider realistically whether it makes sense for you to go through a huge hassle for it, take on debt, and be farther from family etc.

What is stopping you switching your major to social work or a related field, finishing the degree, and then using that to apply for Aus PR? That seems like the fastest path to a good outcome for you. (I.e., within 3 years you would have good passport and a job that interests you -- even if it's not the ultimate job that fulfills all your passions. Remember you will probably change jobs many times even into your early 30s, so just pick a path and get going - don't waffle around trying to decide "is this the very best, one true choice that will make me happy forever?".)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:33 PM on September 16, 2007

deferring (or even doing something else for a semester that ain't through uni) cancels my visa.

That sucks because I was going to suggest leaving Uni for a year to work. If you have a firm job offer does that help with the visa thing and allow you to stay and work? I'm assuming you'd need to move from a student visa to some kind of work one but have no idea if that's possible.

My reasons for suggesting this are:
- you've got a little while until the end of semester giving you some time to find a job (and presumably your current visa will carry you through the summer break giving you a bit more time before you 'officially' decide to not return to uni?)
- taking a year off gives a defined time scale to what you're doing, which will be better both for explaining to your parents and for your state of mind
- getting a job out in the 'real world' will give you new experiences, allow you to meet new people/make new contacts, and will give you perspective on what you were studying and maybe what you should be studying
- working could well make you pine for those annoying assignments too, since even a great job is often far more boring than study
- working for a year will allow you to save some money, then you can use this for other options such as volunteer opportunities or to spend your first semester back at Uni studying abroad
- working for a year will give you time to investigate other education options, either other courses at your current Uni or another university to go to
- you may be able to get a job that is on the right list and therefore helps move you towards getting PR, so you could be moving forwards with the passport issue too
- although you're finding living in Australia harder than you expected for longer than you expected, changing to a whole new country again probably won't be any easier. there are benefits to working on the support system you already have in place (I assumed the boyfriend is in Aus with you?) rather than starting fresh. at the same time working for a bit could give you breathing space (and money) to find somewhere fresh to start if you think that's the way to go

Whatever you decide to do it will work out eventually, these things generally do. The main thing is to just decide something then give it a try. It might not be the right thing first try, but moving along will so much better than feeling lost and stuck and all the horrible things you are now. And that's one less thing on your list of options. To some extend I think you have too many options and not enough information about them. Do some more digging and fill in the questions, it's likely that some of the ideas will turn out to be impractical or unappealing and write themselves off the list. Good luck!
posted by shelleycat at 10:10 PM on September 16, 2007

Have you looked into TAFE? It might suit your learning style a lot better. Having both a degree & various TAFE qualifications I think that university is way over-rated & the wrong way to go for a lot of young people (especially those right out of school) ... unless you are into the whole Oxbridge ivory tower of academia, a TAFE qualification can probably give you the same amount of skills for less money & time, with a far greater amount of contact time with staff & fellow students. University can be a really lonely experience (& I'm speaking as an incorrigible introvert), at TAFE you generally spend 30-40 hrs a week in class with the same group of students for the length of your course. I also think that employers are beginning to twig that TAFE graduates often have better life skills & more practical, directly applicable knowledge than uni grads.

Whatever you decide, for this sem I hope you have been keeping in touch with your course advisor/supervisor - it's really important (in terms of this sem's grades) to notify them of any problems you have. You've already made a positive step by noticing that something is wrong, let uni know too because you might be pleasantly surprised at what they will do to help you out. (Don't do what I did in a similar situation when I was 18 & wouldn't face up to my problems, and found myself at the end of the year sitting exams where I could barely understand the questions...)
posted by hgws at 10:16 PM on September 16, 2007

I've been where you are, or at least, I've been in a similar place (sans visa hassles, it must be said).

A few years back, I'd finished 2 years of a 4 year degree. I was depressed - nearly suicidally so. This thing I had a passion for - the study was boring, and hard, and boring. The tasks we did were trivial, and totally inapplicable in the workplace. Then I hit third year, and finally there were interesting, useful subjects. Well, a couple, anyway. Most of it was still boring and irritating.

This is about 7 years later. I've been working for a couple of years, and it's absolutely nothing like the university course. My current job allows me to select my own worksite and hours, which is of course fantastic. I do a lot of volunteer work in my spare time; I'm currently on the exec for a conference and a club, and in the general committee for two other conferences, and core leadership for a year 11 and 12 week-long camp. I'm a busy little bee, and really happy about where I spend my time.

Of course, I was lucky; I had chosen the right degree. That doesn't necessarily seem to be true in your case.

Social work is a very demanding field. I really respect people who do it; my grandfather-in-law did a lot of social work, especially with aboriginals and people in prisons. I don't know what the coursework is like, but it could be at the very least interesting. You'd certainly (as a career) get to know a lot of very interesting (if oft-times depressing) people. There's a certain ... realism, I suppose, with being day-to-day faced with the people who have felt the sharp end of the stick.

As far as universities go ... personally, QUT is not so great. They don't tend to care about the students at all. Griffith is much more personal, much more relaxed, and whilst that's an extremely bad thing in the sciences and engineering, it's good in the fields you are looking at. I studied at UQ, and their care of students with issues seemed to be quite good, although I'm unsure about the quality of courses in humanities - I haven't heard anything bad about them (unlike QUT), but I haven't heard anything specifically good about them (unlike Griffith).

I would really love to work fulltime organising these conferences and clubs and camps and whatnot - I think I have a real gift for it. But I have to pay the bills, and I'm unwilling to be a kept woman, and volunteer work alone won't let me do that. My boss is, however, supportive of my endevours, so it's not as bad as it could be.

My suggestion is to seriously look into (and ask a student union) about the exact requirements for PR, and work towards that. That'll take one set of stressors off you, and will fix a problem that you'll definitely face if you actually get into an international circuit. I'm pretty sure you can get some kind of job on a student visa, (especially over the summer) even if it's just waitressing, or retail, or whatever, which will net you a bit of money, which might give you a bit more wiggle-room. Yes, that sort of work sucks. It's boring, annoying, frustrating, and a general pain. But hey, money is good. It pays for conferences, amongst other things.

Also, don't stay in a degree that isn't going to get you where you want to go. That's a waste of time.
posted by ysabet at 11:41 PM on September 16, 2007

What is stopping you switching your major to social work or a related field, finishing the degree, and then using that to apply for Aus PR? (this also goes for TAFE)

The main con here is that I'll have to reapply for a new visa (the one I had took AGES to get as it was - damn risk levels) and I'd probably have to start from the beginning. While I am willing to make that move, I'm scared that I'd jump into it and then it'll have the same issues I had with this one, which is essentially that it wasn't what I expected.

ysabet: I would like to organize and facilitate services and events for young people and give them support and resources for their own projects and ideas. A youth worker, basically. Would that be under social work or human services?

It's funny you mentioned Griffith because I was considering going to them first - but QUT accepted me immediately and I've heard things about Griffith being disorganized (which was my last uni's issue). I suppose it is really luck of the draw, eh.

hgws: I've been thinking about TAFE too, but do they go beyond Certs?

If you have a firm job offer does that help with the visa thing and allow you to stay and work? I'm assuming you'd need to move from a student visa to some kind of work one but have no idea if that's possible.

On the visa I have I can work up to 25 hours a week (or full time on holidays) including volunteer time. That's where I've been getting most of my fulfillment from. I am looking into getting a job proper, but then I'll have to find an employer that would sponsor me and that can prove that I'm a better applicant than an Australian! There are jobs I *can* do skillwise, I just don't know if I'm *allowed* to. And my parents want me back for the summer so no job then :P

Thanks for the ideas though, it is giving me things to work on. I still have till the end of the year so here's hoping.
posted by divabat at 12:37 AM on September 17, 2007

TAFE qualification levels - QLD. the highest is advanced diploma (2 years)... a Diploma of Youth Work seems to be the kind of thing you are looking for (1 year course). I know someone who did this (in WA though) & a lot of his time was actually not spent in the classroom but out "in the field" with kids. hope this helps :-)
posted by hgws at 1:40 AM on September 17, 2007

Admittedly I'm a bit jaded about this - but the specific piece of paper you get doesn't matter all that greatly (except in specific circumstances). If you have a bit of paper in a sufficiently related field, fast-talking will get you anywhere. And even slow-talking.

I'd personally go for the Social Work one (if you're still considering bachelor-level degrees) because I at least recognise it; as the holder of a degree which only in the last year or so become known to exist by employers, I can tell you it's really irritating to have to explain over and over and over and over again what it is that you were trained as. "No, I didn't do an x degree majoring in y, I did a Z(y) degree." Meh. But that's a personal-irritation thing; I get annoyed having to repeat myself a lot. If it's not a concern of yours, cool :)

Either way, I'd have a very close look at the course, and peruse the actual notes available online for a couple of the years of subjects in the course, to get a solid feel for the degree you're potentially signing up for.
posted by ysabet at 1:54 AM on September 17, 2007

Just try to hold it together until after the Federal election. We may well end up with a new Government and an immigration minister who isn't a complete fucking waste of space, and you might actually get some options that work better for you.
posted by flabdablet at 4:41 AM on September 17, 2007

What about ditching academia and going for some sort of trade? If you really like experiential, one on one instruction, maybe an apprenticeship would do you good.
posted by electroboy at 6:27 AM on September 17, 2007

I just want to suggest not doing anything rash. I think some of this, like: "I figure at this rate I'm permanently stateless" is just depression and cognitive distortion talking. I assume you've read through the threads here about depression and are taking good care of yourself, diet and exercise and sleep, etc. Get yourself whatever help is available. I'm sure there's something at your university. Metafilter loves its divabat and wants her to do well.
posted by DarkForest at 7:33 AM on September 17, 2007

Here's another way to answer what you asked. Reading your question, I think you have three things you need to address, in this order:

a) Your depression. Without addressing this, all the practical advice in the world won't matter, and I think your depression is causing you to not see things as clearly as you could. For most people, this means some combination of seeing a therapist and maybe using an antidepressant, combined with taking proactive steps to do the things that make you happier. But the specifics really depend on you and your life and your needs, and the answer to this won't come from reading a post here on AskMe.

b) Your citizenship / residency status. This is important, with long-term implications. Fixing this is worth all kinds of sacrifices and trouble, and is much more important than the question of what degree you should or should not do, where you should work, and so on. In the US and Canada the usual advice is to talk to a very good immigration lawyer; whatever is needed for you to arrange things in Australia, you should do. Getting this taken care of may mean completing a degree you don't care about, or spending all your savings, or smiling and taking a job you hate for a year or two. But the benefits a few years down the road will make it worth it, in spades.

c) Your degree and career plans. This is the last and least important, to be worried about only after you have solved the other two issues. You can be a "youth development worker" with any kind of degree, so don't worry about that; whatever you do now won't really lock you in to a narrow path for the rest of your life. You can always go back to school, apprentice, or find some other way to get the skills you need if you want to change direction at some point. Having a degree (of any variety) is good -- it raises your average lifetime earnings, makes you a better candidate for future immigration decisions, and gives you lots of career and school options you won't have without the degree.

But the degree is the least of your worries, aside from needing to stay in school to keep your visa and so on. Fix your depression, fix your immigration status, and then you can have the luxury of pondering your school and career options. Without fixing the first two issues, your school and work choices will be badly constrained, and everything will be much harder.
posted by Forktine at 9:10 AM on September 17, 2007


I just came back from the talk about the new subjects offered by our faculty next year. Guess what's on there?

Workplace learning, service learning, CI projects, research projects. And an International Study Tour if offered by your subfaculty.

HA! Now I can actually get some hands-on experience, get my youth work experience (there are a few youth arts orgs here), make it count for my degree, and basically kill a few birds at once. HA.

It still doesn't solve the issue of my degree being inherently useless for immigration purposes though (as I've said before, CI jobs don't count for much). But it's better than nothing I suppose.
posted by divabat at 9:02 PM on September 17, 2007

A girl I know is working as a graphic designer part time, and studying to be a chef part time, to qualify as a PR— apparently, Australia lacks chefs! IIRC, she said there were a heap of really unexpected jobs on the "specialised trades" list, which is worth looking at cos you might find something you could train for and do for a year or two until your PR comes in.

If you're prepared to go to TAFE for a while on top of your degree, you may have luck convincing the govt you should stay.

Good luck!
posted by indienial at 10:09 PM on September 17, 2007

I just came back from the talk about the new subjects offered by our faculty next year. Guess what's on there?

Workplace learning, service learning, CI projects, research projects. And an International Study Tour if offered by your subfaculty.

Awesome! There are clear benefits to getting a degree even if it's not exactly the right career track for your PR (e.g. it gives you a visa and having a degree in anything makes getting any job easier, even if it's not a perfect match), and this way you can still do that while gaining some of the other things you need too.

They wouldn't be offering these changes if there wasn't a market for them, which indicates that other students in our programme were having the similar issues with their educational experience and career track as you are. Which is kind of comforting, you're not some weird depressed person making things hard, at least some of your disillusionment with the degree and their methods of teaching are totally normal and shared by other students. I find this a positive thought anyway.
posted by shelleycat at 4:11 PM on September 18, 2007

Late to the party here, but if you would consider working for the government in community services when you graduate I suspect you could easily get PR status. Here in NSW they are constantly recruiting and have a lack of staff.
Perhaps talking to them about what you would need to do to meet their minimum qualifications, then picking up appropriate uni courses?
posted by bystander at 12:38 AM on September 19, 2007

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