We Owe Who What? — August 30, 2015

We Owe Who What?

 Today I started reading A British Dream by David Goodhart. It brought up the question for nation-states of who is owed allegiance, the entire world or the citizens of that nation. Jesus famously said “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21 English Standard Version). In today’s world a query that must be answered is who does Caesar owe his or her allegiance to. There is no doubt that we are in a global society, clearly our markets and lifestyle are altered by the occurrences in the entire world and not just the circumstances down the street.
 The podcast The Ethicists, from New York Times Magazine, discusses ethical quandaries. One recent episode was on how international aid after major catastrophes should be divided between people who you personally have met and those who are unknown. An analogy was drawn that it makes sense for a parent to buy their child another toy and not feel the responsibility to make sure that every child in the world has at least one toy. This makes sense to a certain level, but it also makes you wonder how many toys can a parent buy for their child or how many luxuries can we provide for our family without feeling responsibility for the child with no toys/ the nation recently hit by a hurricane/ the person starving in Africa. When we buy a pair of jeans should we pay the difference between cheap jeans and fair trade jeans in a donation to a charity that ensures employee rights? How about the one dollar coffee that there is an almost certainty was not the result of fair payment and employment treatment throughout production? I don’t have an answer. I also know I haven’t previously even considered this.
 Nations have to face these same questions but on a larger scale. Should every member of our nation be granted a free college education in exchange for decreasing our foreign aid? Should we provide a kindergarten through twelfth grade education to everyone with our tax dollars or should we use that money towards ensuring that every member of the world does not die of preventable illnesses? In our growingly intertwined world we are confronted by the great shared benefits and also the not so pleasant occurrences in every section of our world. I don’t think, and almost am certain that, it is not wrong for any nation’s wealth to be invested in their citizen’s future. However, I am also fairly certain that our consumeristic life styles tend to be arenas where we don’t naturally think of others.
 I am not saying that I am comfortable with where I find myself in this arena. This morning I bought a pair of running shorts that cost around 50 dollars. This week I also got an email from the USA Center for the United Nation’s High Commissioner of Refugees requesting that I add to my monthly giving a one time donation towards clean water that would provide refugees with vital clean water. Even though I plan on writing for refugee’s economic needs for my master’s thesis I find myself using my money in the direction of myself. I am not saying sell all of your spare goods and give it away; however, I would request that you would join me in trying to be more mindful about where you use your money. I am not suggesting we make a formula like x percent goes to those in need internationally, just greater consideration of our international neighbors.  
I would love to hear ways where you are being mindful of the needs of others, as I recognize my own lacking effort.
Your friend,

James                    

The Dread of Student Debt — August 18, 2015

The Dread of Student Debt

College is a time of fun, meeting new people, learning about your major(s), finding out about yourself, and gaining a lot of debt and expenses. As college has become the expected next step of the majority of high school students, within that expectation is the consequence of increasing student debt. I think is time to shift the paradigm that massive student debt is necessary and should be put on the shoulders of recent graduates. As someone who recently graduated, an obvious objection would be now that you have your education you just want the easy way out. However, I have a few ideas that can improve the educational landscape for students, employers, charities, and universities.
1.Grant tax incentivized financing for employers who pay for education while the student is in school

In the current landscape the norm is for the government to take the burden of student debt directly through financing loans at artificially low interest rate. Private companies can get better educated employees through offering the incentive of paying education expenses while the employee is a student-employee. In turn the government would grant the employer a full or partial tax credit for the amount paid towards education. This would result in the government holding less debt and debt related expenses, the company getting employees with a higher education, and employees who feel free to work for a greater number of employers.
2. Grant tax incentivized financing for future employees
The ability for an employee to not feel the weight of their student debt immediately after graduation would allot for well trained graduates to take jobs they would not have been able to otherwise. If an employer was able to take on the student debt of a graduate in exchange for a multiyear contract beneficial for all parties then smaller companies could attract higher qualified employees, who have their debt payed and a new sense of freedom. This is done through the transfer of bearing the debt to the private company from government owned debt, in exchange for a tax credit.
3. Grant charities the option to donate towards volunteers’ educational expenses at a government matched rate
If a student is willing to donate their expertise towards a certified charity, then that charity should be able to get a matched donation towards the student’s education. Charities can often times use a greater pool of talent, and if university is as influential and great as it claims, then the students’ talents would be of immense worth. Exchanging time serving for investing in a student encourages a life of philanthropy for the student, a value that I have seldom had encouraged in my formal education.
Education should not cause a worry of student debt, especially for those who give back to the economy or charities. I have many friends who have felt or are feeling the pressures related to student debt. As a country, we ought to work towards eliminating student debt. This can be done with exchanging the money already paid towards deferring interest on loans for tax breaks for organizations assisting students with their debt. This effort should also work towards a setting where these institutions can give their input into the education system to ensure that students gain skills and knowledge needed for the present work environment. May graduation be a season of hope for graduates instead of the dread of debt.

Freedom and Fear: My Emotions Before London — August 15, 2015

Freedom and Fear: My Emotions Before London

In less than three weeks I will be heading off to London. It will be a time of learning, both in terms of my academic program and in living in another country. During this time I will have a lot of freedom, to visit countries in Europe I have dreamt of seeing for years or attending a match of my favorite soccer team, Chelsea FC, who play in London. This is a season in my life of freedom and opportunity, to a level I am simply not used to.

I am someone who typically likes to follow the normal path laid out before them. You go to school from kindergarten and eventually you receive a high school diploma. Afterwards, college was always taught as a necessity to get a good job and to be able to provide for yourself. Now this is where the plot turns in my life from the norms to slightly different. This makes me nervous as I am stepping out on a path, doing graduate school in another country, which I have no friends to text “hey, how are you feeling about moving into your new country” or “did you understand this part of the visa application, I’m not quite sure about it”. Having no friends with these shared experiences makes things rough.

On the other hand, it is a time of opportunities with the chances to explore new cities and countries around me and to meet fellow international students who are trying to figure out London. These new places and new friends are the aspects of my move I am looking forward to most. I have done reading from my future professors and enjoyed their insights, but how often does one have the freedom to choose between the brilliant city of London or a quick jaunt to Rome any given weekend? This view might be idyllic, so I will be sure to keep you up-to-date either way.

Times are changing, a boy who has spent all but one year of his life in a town of 80,000 is now going to be a 22 year old in the metropolis of London’s millions of residents. I told a friend last night that in some ways I am jealous of people my age who have found a job and are plugging away there. Yet over time I am realizing the vast prospects of leaving what I am familiar with for something new. Time will tell and pictures will show just what it was like. See you soon, London.

Your friend,

James

Ready or Not: Here Comes Grad School — August 2, 2015

Ready or Not: Here Comes Grad School

On my discussion of the goings on in my life I am going to start to incorporate how starting a graduate degree in a foreign university is impacting my life. As you might know, I have been traveling extensively this summer in the cause of trying to spend time with friends and family before heading out to London in September. The implications of my upcoming move are starting to take significant root and notice in my life, especially over the last couple of weeks. This week has been a week of reminiscing of past great memories, discussing the future, and tying up the loose ends in paperwork for my visa and scholarship.   
Wednesday I returned from a great time in New York City with two of my longest kept friends. We went to high school and all but one year of college together. The reality that I will spend around four months months without seeing them face-to-face definitely hit me hard. During my time in NYC I got the news of receiving a scholarship to graduate school and it was a pleasure to share in the joy with these two. Over the years I have shared many joys and struggles with these friends and it is hard to think what it will be like to only share these times over the phone while I am in London.
This week I also started to schedule times to hang out with several other extremely close friends. This is taking a variety of forms from sporting events to grabbing a bite to eat. The sadness of scheduling these times is overwhelming surpassed by the joys of spending time with these great people who help make life so special. It is a pleasure to talk to these people and hear about the great things occurring in their lives and to look forward to the many exciting times ahead of us. I will never forget the imprint my friends and family have on my life. In a very real way they have given me a large portion of the strength and encouragement to know that I will be okay and make friends in a new environment in the upcoming year.
Additionally I had the world renown joy of preparing paperwork! This took two primarily outlets, the first was my Tier 4 Student Visa to the United Kingdom. My university was great at providing information as soon as I needed it for my visa. However, it was my first time preparing a student visa and I had to email several times to get a variety of information that I did not have or even knew I needed at first. If you are ever in a situation where you are applying for a visa I would recommend you contact someone that knows what they are doing because I ended up writing in a wrong number on the visa application and had to contact my university, get the proper number, and edit my application. Finally, part of the scholarship I am receiving from my university required my to complete a form describing myself. This resulted on working on an essay late the night I returned home from NYC. Fun times. Or if I am being honest with myself, just another memory of a late night writing before a deadline 😉
This time has been exceptional. Nothing this summer has felt truly “normal”. Part of that is the travel. Part of that is the reality of upcoming substantial changes. All I know is that I cannot do this alone and that I need a lot of help along the way, which I am deeply grateful for receiving. I hope that you can be wise enough to not procrastinate on deadlines when you are preparing paperwork and to have the humility to ask questions when you are in an unfamiliar situation. 
Your friend,

James