Monday, July 16, 2018

Money Lessons from 2 Countries - Chapter 2

We talked last week about the differences between the school systems in Romania and the US. I would like to take this post to go over some other differences within the school systems, as well as the life of the students and their families during this period.

As I mentioned, during the communism, every high school graduate was offered a job - not one that required a lot of specific training or a certification, but still a job. Also, at the time that everyone graduated university, they were offered a job in the field of their studies. For instance, doctors, teachers and engineers ended up with jobs in their field - the only "catch" was that they went to very small cities and especially in villages. The only way for them to be in a big city or close to their hometown was to ask for favors or to bribe someone.

By contrast, after the revolution, just like in the United States, many of the graduates from different universities work in jobs that are different from their field of study. Also, with the increase in new universities after 1989, there are a lot more graduates than before. With all the changes that came with the revolution, the high school graduates had more options for university, and therefore many attended classes in fields that they were not passionate about, such as going to law school - similarly with many American students getting a degree in criminal justice.

While growing up both during the communist regime and afterwards, in Romania, teenagers and college students didn't have an opportunity to work - without the fast foods and grocery stores, like the big chains in the US, we didn't have a chance to earn money and have entry-level jobs that show up as "experience" on a resume. I still remember how hard it was after graduating college when I started looking for a job and everyone was asking me about experience. Yet nobody would hire me to give me the "experience" they were all requiring. 

I guess in this I always considered the students from Western Europe and the United States as fortunate to be able to achieve a certain level of financial comfort by providing the cash they needed for the things they wanted through their own jobs and efforts. As a funny side note, I also didn't grow up with an allowance, so I didn't have a "weekly wage" as a child, with which to make plans for things to buy. I always had to earn the money I wanted by maintaining good grades - which was not a hard thing for me (fortunately). 

Going away to college gave me an opportunity to manage my money while making sure I could buy the things I wanted while also having money to go home every time I wanted. For many Romanian students college is the first chance to leave home for a number of years and become independent (or at least depend on the parents less). What happens many times after graduation though, is that the graduates return to live with their family for a while longer - unless they find opportunities for work (most often out of the country). 

I used to think that the American and Western European systems, encouraging their youth to move out form their parents' homes in their late teenage years, was such a great set up. I longed to be independent back in my adolescence...

We will explore some of the other changes in the next weeks. Stay tuned! 

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