I am sitting in Killam library now, finishing off the final format reviews to my thesis. However, the initial euphoria and delight I had enjoyed after defending last month has worn off, giving way to a complexity of nostalgia and sheer dread.
Killam, where I had spent so many hours, reading and writing on states, NGOs, women’s rights, refugees, the UN… Killam, shrine of assignement stress, good books and coffee. Killam, the epitome of my student days.
Enough of the nostalgia. Let’s move on to hard facts.
As a student living in student housing, I pay $870 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in the Halifax South End. This includes heating, electricity and parking. The children’s school can be seen from our windows, my office is across the road. The going rate for two-bedroom apartments in this area is anything from $1500 to $2000+, depending on amenities, and this rarely includes electricity and parking. Electricity plus heating is an estimate of $80 a month. If you own your apartment (as opposed to renting), in an area slightly further from the South End, you can expect to pay something like (minimum estimate) $600 monthly in various fees and taxes for owning a property, not including the mortgage (another ~$800).
As a student, I was entitled to a cheapo insurance for myself and family, which gave us something like 70% off dental bills and medication. Dental bills range upwards of $500 so this is serious. I am looking at equivalent insurance for non-students, and it costs something like $90+ a month.
As a grad student, I could borrow books for a whole term, renewing for a year. Non-students have three weeks.
As a full-time student, I get daycare subsidies for the children. These will significantly diminish after I lose my student status, leaving me with childcare bills upwards of $400 a month.
Six months after graduating, I will have to start paying back my student loans, another monthly payment of $150+.
As a non-student, I will have a different tax status. I haven’t dared to sit down and figure how this will affect me financially.
I am lucky enough that I work full-time, sure, which why I won’t be homeless. But the job is precarious, has no benefits, and I could lose it over anything, really. I have seen it happen to others, and I live with the nightmare that it will happen to me. Meanwhile, after I finish making all the monthly payments I have to make, I think there will enough left to buy bread and potatoes for the month so we don’t starve.
So, even though the floors of my student apartment look like this, I feel afraid when I think about the future and my bills. I can understand the urge, which I see many succumb to, to remain in the safe warm coddling arms of academia, trying kill myself with getting in a PhD in a subject which will interest about five people in the whole wide world.
However, the dice has been thrown, and I am stepping out there in the harsh financial cold reality. Even though I feel faint and dizzy when I think of my life expenses.
Alternatively, I could just print off this picture and hang it in my new place, wherever it is.