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Old 14.12.2006, 11:00
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Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

Hello everyone...

I am someone who tends to like general stability and since coming here in August I've felt as if I have had none. At the moment I'm trying to consider what I can and cannot do in life -- I'm only 22, so I have plenty of time to figure things out. Since September I have been enrolled in an intensive German course, which has helped me a lot (probably because of my extra reading). It is not entirely fluent, but I can basically read the NZZ now and understand the Tagesschau (and Meteo - I can understand a moderate amount of Swiss German).

Now, the biggest question I have had (and am wondering what others would think) is if I should stay here or drag my wife back to the US. The only real options for employment that I see here involve going back to school and basically retaking my Bachelors (which included a year at Oxford and grades that would allow me to basically do anything I wanted in the US). I would only do this for one thing - to become a Gymnasium teacher here. Nevermind learning German, they require Latin as well (fun times). It sort of feels like a waste of time for me... The average salary for a Gymnasium teacher is about 10k/month around the age of 40. I think they start lower (105k/year) and end at around a 160k a year near retirement. That sounds good, but I've really lost touch with what purchasing power is in this country as the exchange rate is not really accurate. Using PPP and the numbers I could find it seems that on top of a normal conversion into dollars salaries are actually only worth 60% of what they are in purchasing power? (Nevermind the fact that I'd be a foreigner trying to teach Swiss kids, I wonder how that would go down.)

I feel as if I am in a corner here, as many expats who come over with a spouse and are unaware of the eccentricities of the Swiss system (i.e. the lack of liberal arts education, extremely specific training and, at the very least, the appearance of illiberalism in the job market). I've been going bezerk because I am stuck living with my mother and grandmother-in-law. The mother-in-law is a wacko and is impossible to live with -- its now been 5 months and I am about to snap (I actually already did this weekend to be honest).

Some months ago someone recommended taking an MBA. I've looked into it a little, but all of the programs require that one is currently employed and has years of work experience under their belt (nevermind the tuitions, which are not subsidized or as subsidized as a normal uni education here). It is probably different if one enters university being Swiss to study business as a Bachelors as well. There is no way I'll restart my education from scratch to do that when I could just go back to the US. On top of that, how could I imagine getting a financial sector job here in CH without accounting and econ courses? I feel rather cornered. Maybe I am discounting the financial sector a bit too much, I would mind it. If anyone has some pointers there...

The only good thing is that I might be accepted to a MA program at the ETH, but it would not prepare me for a career and would basically relegate me to the academic world. I would like that, but it is much more inflexible than in the US and professors back home warned me not to have high hopes over here. I also think it might be too work work for the returns I would eventually receive. That is why I am now beginning to think about just accepting realitiy as it is and quasi-restarting my BA to become the Gymnasium teacher (which was my original goal in coming over -- I was unable to acquire information on capability to the American system because they are in the process of adapting the BA/MA system, so I was disappointed to say the least with what I have heard so far) OR returning to the US and applying for law school or an MA program.

Now I've not been just sitting on my hands. I've tried to think through my options, but I really do not know what to do. I started sending out my job applications -- I sent the first on Sunday -- and plan to apply blindly all over, but that is really just short-term and I doubt would be highly paid. I really could use some pointers from people -- especially since most of you seem to really know how things work here and are rather intelligent. My wife's family is no help and mine back home doesn't understand why it is so difficult. Any advice for a lost 22 year old?
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Old 14.12.2006, 11:10
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

Some points:

a) you're young
b) you have a wife , hence responsibility
c) you don't have your own life as a couple if you are lodging

In your position my first priority would be to get our own place and some independence. That requires an income, ergo: forget further degrees. Get a job.

You say "retake" ? Does that mean you didnt pass the first time ?
If you have a degree, then unless you are specially motivated, then I would avoid the default of staying in education. Spend some time working out what makes you tick and what you both really want. Then work out a plan for how to get there. Believe me, the first bit is harder than the second.

At least give this place a shot , especially if you have learnt some of the language...

dave



Quote:
The only real options for employment that I see here involve going back to school and basically retaking my Bachelors (which included a year at Oxford and grades that would allow me to basically do anything I wanted in the US).
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Old 14.12.2006, 11:19
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

22!
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Old 14.12.2006, 11:26
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

Do you really want to teach or do you think that is the only option available to you?
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Old 14.12.2006, 11:42
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

Quote:
Do you really want to teach or do you think that is the only option available to you?
I want to teach. The plan in coming over here was that I would be able to enroll in a Masters program here and fulfill any additional requirements to become a gymnasium teacher. Back in the US I would have planned to go for an MA and then a PhD. That is still an option here, hence my application to a competitive MA program at the ETH. However, I've been warned that things over here are not the same in terms of advancement at universities and the availability of jobs. The forced resignation of the ETH's former president recently really is a sign of that -- he was Americanizing / Anglo-saxonizing the school "too much"...

I think that becoming a gymnasium teacher would be ideal for me. It is smarter 16-20 year olds and is rather steady. It is actually much more ideal for me than the equivalent back in the US, so that is why I thought it would be perfect until I discovered the mess I have to go through to get there.

Last edited by spmull06; 14.12.2006 at 12:01.
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Old 14.12.2006, 12:04
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

Quote:
Some points:

a) you're young
b) you have a wife , hence responsibility
c) you don't have your own life as a couple if you are lodging

In your position my first priority would be to get our own place and some independence. That requires an income, ergo: forget further degrees. Get a job.
Well, between the two of us we have a fair amount of money saved (I'd say for our age). We've been sitting on it in the hope of finding jobs before renting so that we'd have a nest egg of sorts thanks primarily to my parents. I know I need to find a job -- that comes first. I already began to apply. My problem up until now was that I live out in the Reusstal and my German course took up 4 hours a day (plus 1 hour each way to Zürich). I am now waiting for a letter of recommendation from my previous employer, where I worked in the accounting office for the past 5 summers. She even told me I could help her edit it so that it would be good for the Swiss job market. Beyond that I acquired copies of all the certificates I need and will be working on building up a full-size Swiss CV around Christmas and I take the ZMP in January. My only problem is the lack of accounting and econ courses at college.

I am not even dreaming of applying to Uni Züri / Basel / Bern until 2008. I need ensure that my German is entirely fluent before I continue studying. The ETH program is in English...


Quote:
You say "retake" ? Does that mean you didnt pass the first time ?
If you have a degree, then unless you are specially motivated, then I would avoid the default of staying in education. Spend some time working out what makes you tick and what you both really want. Then work out a plan for how to get there. Believe me, the first bit is harder than the second.

At least give this place a shot , especially if you have learnt some of the language...

dave
I graduated with honors, was in the top 15% of my class and wrote a 100 page thesis as an undergraduate. The problem is the compatibility between the systems. The MA program at the ETH is built to be compatible, but it really offers no career opportunities that are feasible with a wife. As to Uni Züri, they just started with BA degree programs this October and the MA is not here until 2008. Even under the MA, or what someone in the history department there told me, I only have two or three options, none of which would help in becoming a gymnasium teacher and for which I have no interest. The rest remains basic incompatible with the world as a whole, despite the fact that they are labeled BA/MA programs. They are still really one degree. On top of it I'll have to learn a moderate amount of Latin -- the department requires Latin on par with what the Swiss study for 4? years at Gymnasium, so I'll have to begin a crash course somehow. I'd have a year into studying to complete it, but that is an extra pain. They would also analyze all of the course work I have done to determine how much I need to take to complete their degree program, so it would not be starting entirely from scartch.

I will look for work, but my degree is in *Political Science*! Although it is rather useful in the US -- you can do a lot of things with it, a lot of people from my class work for law offices in preparations for law school, others for financial firms, yet others for your run-of-the-mill business -- it is useless in Switzerland . What skills do I actually offer other than an analytical mind? That is all I have basically proven so far... And who here cares about that in CH if it is not coupled with financial skills? I'm going to be applying to banks and a lot of other English-language firms. I am really determined to work my ass off, just this much unemployment has driven me crazy. I really want to work.
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Old 14.12.2006, 12:05
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

I am 25 and I recently moved here to be with my fiancee. I have an M.Sc. and worked really hard to get to where I am now. It took me 6 months to find a job, which is really unthinkable considering I had job offers the moment I graduated in the US and Canada. We lived with his parents for the first 3 months and it was really really difficult, even though they are great people.

My advice?
1. Move out. Seriously...things are economically difficult here but not impossible. Getting your own space will help you enormously.

2. Getting an MA from ETH will not be a waste of time at all. It will still be recognized in the US if you decide to go there later and at least can be used as an opportunity to meet people in your field. If you want a job then look for one, and talk to people...you need connections if you are going to get in (I spent 4 months meeting people and getting my name out there...even in the paper once!)

It sounds to me like you just need to figure out what you want. Switzerland isnt the kind of country where your future comes delivered on a silver platter. However, they do reward hard work, so figure out what you want and work for it...I am confident that you can make your future work.

Stay positive!
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Old 14.12.2006, 12:07
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

Quote:
2. Getting an MA from ETH will not be a waste of time at all.
It is a political science MA program...

Thanks for the post. We started looking for apartments again and will start visiting soon. The only problem is that the market is the worst I have seen it in the 9 months I've been looking. I think living here with the in-laws has really been one of the main problems.
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Old 14.12.2006, 12:12
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

I don't think the subject of your degree is so important for the graduate programes at places like UBS. The fact that you completed a degree is more important than the subject area.
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Old 14.12.2006, 12:22
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

Forget about the salary as a deciding factor for now. Concentrate on discussing your frustrations with your wife. Do you talk about it with each other?

Clawing back self-worth is a Herculean task. It's correct what you say about arriving here, somewhat innocent of the culture, only to find things are decidedly trickier than anticipated and usually through no fault of your own. Boy, we should form a club.

You're living with your wife's family? I take it they're Swiss. It's surprising the number of Swiss families who have someone 'else' as a foreigner somewhere in the family: is it an option to meet with them and air your frustrations? Home life must be merry hell. They're most likely also suffering.

I'm pretty impressed you can understand the NZZ after only four months. That's really great! Can I suggest something you're probably tired of hearing? Find any job for now. Anything. Waiter, cleaner, candlestick maker (even volunteer work) - anything to allow you to find a set of people outside the family home where you can be yourself, earn a bit of pocket money (and that's all it's likely to be...) and get a bit of perspective.

Getting up and getting out is important, as you've probably realised going to language school. Feeling part of the society you're living in - which you don't get at school - will offer different angles. Recognise you're not going to be on any Fast Track career just yet. Find your bearings and allow the roots to grow a little. Unless they're invited by a large salary, most expats come here and have to downshift career expectations. It's not a uniquely Swiss condition.

The first year or so for any 'residential' expat is pretty turbulent and I'm sure most will agree there are times of doubt and puzzlement. Perhaps give yourself a vague deadline (Summer?) to allow yourself to see what CH has to offer. It'd only be a year and plenty of people on the Forum have spent more time in Prison (ha ha you know who you are! )

Also, forgive me, but with 22 you're not even a quarter the way to Enlightenment. It's tough being young, having few resources and being a stranger in a strange land, but as someone commented above, work out what "makes you tick". My 96 yrs old Granny is still undecided, but, wow, can she throw a party. Let the control reigns go for a while. Stability ain't all it's cracked up to be if you want to break the mould a little
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Old 14.12.2006, 12:27
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

Quote:
Find any job for now. Anything. Waiter, cleaner, candlestick maker (even volunteer work)
One thing that has always vexed me -- where the heck do I find these job listings? They're not online (at least not where I look) or in the newspapers. How does one find openings for low-level service jobs?
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Old 14.12.2006, 12:42
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

Ha ha, join the Queue, Bucko.

Advertise on the Forum, for starters. "Willing to clean your car", "Look after your kids", "Vacuum your appartment".

I know - really KNOW - how tough it can be. This is where your personality develops, your world view expands and perhaps a modicum of humility develops. All good stuff.

Put a notice up in Coop, Migros, Community centre (Gemeindschafts Zentrum), bug the shit out of anyone who'll listen. Hand them a card with your number on. Then follow-up with an email. Make the effort to write in German (for a Foreigner who bothers, this will impress the Swiss).

It takes balls to walk up to a shop owner and say "Gizza Job", for them to say "Sorry" and to then walk into another shop, to ask "Gizza job". This can go on for three years, it can go on for three hours. There IS work available, there always is, but you need to find it and advertising a vacant position is the last thing a desperate recruiter does.

I sympathise with the frustration you comment upon about having an analytical mind and a fist full of papers declaring your intelligence, ha ha, but that joke isn't funny. Tranferable skills are all well and good, if only people would recognise them. Meanwhile, swallow your pride (no-one else cares, for what it's worth) comb your hair and knock on doors. It's horrible, but a necessity.

Perversly, those in a job find a job a whole lot easier than those without. Get some cash together (don't wait until the New Year to start looking, easy as it may seem) however you can and experience what it's like to be working, with associated dignity it provides. Good Luck

Ps, don't see any service job as "low-level". Low rewards maybe, but I know plenty of lawyers who can't make a decent omelette
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Old 14.12.2006, 13:24
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

I agree totally. The umemployed here that are entitled to the luxury of "status": in which they are not required to apply for jobs that would pay them less than 70% of their last salary. Many foreigners do not have that. It's all good character-building stuff as Max pointed out So get on your bike and find a job (that is either a metaphor or a literal imperative, all without pockets)....

dave

Quote:
Ha ha, join the Queue, Bucko.

Advertise on the Forum, for starters. "Willing to clean your car", "Look after your kids", "Vacuum your appartment".

I know - really KNOW - how tough it can be. This is where your personality develops, your world view expands and perhaps a modicum of humility develops. All good stuff.

Put a notice up in Coop, Migros, Community centre (Gemeindschafts Zentrum), bug the shit out of anyone who'll listen. Hand them a card with your number on. Then follow-up with an email. Make the effort to write in German (for a Foreigner who bothers, this will impress the Swiss).

It takes balls to walk up to a shop owner and say "Gizza Job", for them to say "Sorry" and to then walk into another shop, to ask "Gizza job". This can go on for three years, it can go on for three hours. There IS work available, there always is, but you need to find it and advertising a vacant position is the last thing a desperate recruiter does.

I sympathise with the frustration you comment upon about having an analytical mind and a fist full of papers declaring your intelligence, ha ha, but that joke isn't funny. Tranferable skills are all well and good, if only people would recognise them. Meanwhile, swallow your pride (no-one else cares, for what it's worth) comb your hair and knock on doors. It's horrible, but a necessity.

Perversly, those in a job find a job a whole lot easier than those without. Get some cash together (don't wait until the New Year to start looking, easy as it may seem) however you can and experience what it's like to be working, with associated dignity it provides. Good Luck

Ps, don't see any service job as "low-level". Low rewards maybe, but I know plenty of lawyers who can't make a decent omelette
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Old 14.12.2006, 13:50
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

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I'm pretty impressed you can understand the NZZ after only four months. That's really great!
Me too! After spending eternity here I still can't do that properly
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Old 14.12.2006, 14:01
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

STOP COMPLAINING! That's the first thing you should do

Clearly define what you really want to achieve and go for it.. Waiting until 2008 before applying in a German-speaking Master’s at the uni is way too long.. Risk a little more (It took me 1.5 years from zero German!). Whining and thinking how the good ol’ American life is so much better is just a waste of your time & energy.
In the end, it was your choice to be here, so make the most of it! Oh well, if you decide that it is really so much better in the US, then it would probably wise just to go back.. Don’t you think?
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Old 14.12.2006, 18:01
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

Quote:
I agree totally. The umemployed here that are entitled to the luxury of "status": in which they are not required to apply for jobs that would pay them less than 70% of their last salary. Many foreigners do not have that. It's all good character-building stuff as Max pointed out So get on your bike and find a job (that is either a metaphor or a literal imperative, all without pockets)....

dave
I am not against taking a service job and would gladly clean toilets at a hotel to make some money. I also started applying for jobs and already have rejections.
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Old 14.12.2006, 18:08
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

Quote:
STOP COMPLAINING! That's the first thing you should do

Clearly define what you really want to achieve and go for it.. Waiting until 2008 before applying in a German-speaking Master’s at the uni is way too long.. Risk a little more (It took me 1.5 years from zero German!).

Let me repeat: There are NO MA programs at Uni Züri until 2008. If I go beforehand I am commiting myself to CH for life, which is what I'd be doing by going in the first place, because I would be starting in-between BA/MA, if not entirely from scatch.

Quote:
Whining and thinking how the good ol’ American life is so much better is just a waste of your time & energy.
In the end, it was your choice to be here, so make the most of it! Oh well, if you decide that it is really so much better in the US, then it would probably wise just to go back.. Don’t you think?
I don't really think it is a waste of time and it is an open option. On top of it, it was not just "my" choice. I have a wife who is Swiss, who wanted to come back here for the subsidized tuition and who does not want to interupt her studies again.
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Old 14.12.2006, 19:10
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

Quote:
I don't really think it is a waste of time and it is an open option. On top of it, it was not just "my" choice. I have a wife who is Swiss, who wanted to come back here for the subsidized tuition and who does not want to interupt her studies again.
that's very noble of her

my wife did her degree and MBA in the US before her 20s were done. She did her MBA with a full-time job - and did it 2 hours drive from where she was living.

compromise is what it's about - certainly in some areas.
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Old 14.12.2006, 19:27
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

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that's very noble of her

my wife did her degree and MBA in the US before her 20s were done. She did her MBA with a full-time job - and did it 2 hours drive from where she was living.

compromise is what it's about - certainly in some areas.
Well she already came to the US and studied there a year for me while I finished my BA, so this is sort of a compromise. We didn't think clearly enough in terms of staying there because we always just assumed we'd come back over here. If it was this time last year I would not have planned to come here -- and she'd have looked into transfering to a better college in the US. Oh well -- life is full of mistakes and one has to live with the decisions that have been made. I'm probably going to end up staying here in CH because she's studying for a job that really only exists here and wouldn't want to do the equivalent in the US, so I'll end up going back to do the same thing myself. It is really the "in-between" time that is difficult... oh, and the in-laws. I don't feel comfortable posting in public about it. I'll just say some of the immediate family is now institutionalized [dead serious] and the remainder probably should be as well.
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Old 14.12.2006, 19:36
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Re: Looking for some advice... I am rather lost

fair enough - distance study?
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