Author Topic: Romanian college student with almost non-financial life - what's my next move?  (Read 2103 times)

Cy

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Intro
    Hello everyone! I am a 19 year-old college student from Romania. I live with my girlfriend of a few years, 50% alone, 50% with my parents. My college offers free tuition, but I don't feel engaged or interested, as what's mostly taught is antiquated "Computer Science", frankly mostly PC anatomy rather than new and usable tech.

Financial situation
    Romania is what I'd call a second world country. $1 is 4 lei. The price of everything is somewhat lower than in the US, but the salaries are a fraction and groceries are proportionally rather expensive. For example, my middle-class parents earn a combined ~$500 a month, groceries for a week are around $50, a can of coke is around $1, a pack of cigarettes is $4 and a gallon of gas is around $6. Not sure how useful this is, but finances are...bad... and early retirement is impossible here. My plan is to leave as soon as I get it together.

    I live a largely non-financial/financially stagnating life. We live for free with my parents' grocery money, I have a meager ($60 a month for some months) scholarship for my grades as well as $200 stashed, and my girlfriend has about $1.1k stashed of her own from scholarships. I don't regularly earn money for personal spending, nor do I regularly spend it (10 days into September, and I haven't spent more than $2 while being rather socially active with "guerilla hang-outs" and picnics). I don't really buy clothes or have ongoing memberships, and I don't feel the need to spend much to be happy.

    My parents, strained as they are, have some very poor financial habits, like impulse buying, mis-focusing, buying stuff because "they deserve it for their work"(even though I see money as a crystalised form of time and work, rather than a reward for it) and being rather disdainful of Mustachianism. They throw away a lot of food and have a very short cooking attention span ("oh, screw those leftovers, we're making something NEW").

My progress so far

    I took this summer to work on my life-skills and health, as money has been stagnating or a source of anxiety. I've implemented a three-part system for managing my money, as such:

  • The Stash - my pile of earned and saved up money
  • The Buffer - a strict $50 for spending on personal items and socialising. Money comes here first, refilling the "shields". If I go under 0(I never have), I start spending painfully from the Stash. If I go over $50, it flows straight into the Stash. It has helped my anxiety since my little money has been on an objective, observable slow rise.
  • Groceries - money designated for buying food, home improvements, etc. My partner and I own this together, which has been an interesting delve into common funding and "fairness" with scarce money.


    I've managed to individually track all of the ways in which my life would be satisfying or not, anywhere from spending habits to reading, cooking, exercise, skills, etc. I've been biking anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours daily for a few weeks now, as well as cooking regularly and spending almost nothing non-groceries. I've become far more optimistic with life, signed up for career orientation classes, made a battle plan for the sometimes nerve-wracking and asocial college life (college here isn't an All-American Experience, it's somewhere you go and come back from every day and that's all)...I'm beginning my second year, also my second-to-last, and allegedly the most difficult. My mental stability and health have been improving steadily, and I am healthily underweight. I have very good friends, but my college social network is lacking, where I am perceived as anywhere from indifferent to idealistic to extreme and cynical, as I'm not at my best in there. I don't find too many of my groupmates interesting or reliable.

Problems
  • "Workisbad" - My parents have inoculated into me the idea that college is the best time of your life, your 20s are the only enjoyable decade of it, and everything after it will be a slave-like trudge of earning as much as you spend in a job you despise until you die. I'm smarter than believing that, but only as of recently. At my most depressive, I start fearing adulthood, as if the conditioning is unerasable.
  • My obsession with streaks - I can get pessimistic when a streak of X days in which something went rather well (I don't get depression or anxiety, I exercise, I read, I learn, etc.) gets broken, often because of my own flaws and self-destructive impulses when mental illness takes over my mind.
  • Capitalism has "saved" us - Romania was under a painful communist dictatorship decades ago, and the advent of capitalism as its "saviour" has convinced a huge portion of the country that you can buying and happiness are the same, only because they had way less of each before. I struggle to maintain a healthy relationship with society, often falling off of a crisp, honest critical stance into engulfing, damaging cynicism and...
  • My messianic tendencies - I tend to burn myself out and drop on all levels when acting on an impulse to fix the people around me, by trying to force them to see things they don't want to see, or spending too much time and energy telling them about what I've learned, linking them, giving them reading material. It's a childish impulse, and yet somehow I end up treating others like I'm their parent. It's the biggest drain on my life, but it has been getting better. This might be because I don't have enough actionable projects to work on.
  • Financial stagnation - I "get" most financial tendencies and mentalities that I come across in my research on FI/frugality/minimalism but there's the frank fact that there isn't much I can do about it now.
  • Stunted minimalism - Anywhere I go, I am forced to withstand clutter and excess. Everyone other than my partner is a hoarder, and I face friction and potential bridge-burning when suggesting decluttering. The benefits of minimalism don't get through and I get perceived as the "bad guy" for scything into their happiness, in spite of their stress management being virtually null.
Goals
  • I want to get a grip and find some career paths to explore or experience in any way I could.
  • I want a plan after college. I'm likely to stay in my somewhat large and burgeoning city for as long as I need to, for free, while exploring life at my own pace. I have no clue what I should do, with only a vague idea that I'd work in tech.
  • I want to learn new skills, preferrably for free and certifiably. I know how to program at a beginner level in several languages, and I am rather experienced with Linux. I would like concrete plans when it comes to defining my relationship to programming, as I've been less than perseverent with it once it got complicated. I can see myself being a trainer or coach perhaps more than a programmer. Web design might be appealing to me, but I'm utterly clueless as to where to go after I learn the basics.
  • I want to not just read about, but implement financial changes in my life, but I have no finances to work with and experiment. I don't see myself earning money any time soon, and although I may live decently here, I'll be earning too little money to invest it meaningfully for more high-powered economies abroad. $1000 may be a moderate sum over there, but in here it can be four months' pay. Even if I earn some money here, will it be meaningful once I start moving through the world? It feels a bit futile to know that one month of entry-level work here would quadruple all of my slow, painful savings so far, and one month abroad would make several decades of my life here amount to pocket change. Is money here anything but training grounds for the rest of the world?
  • I want to forward social movements such as clothing-swaps, no-spending gatherings, perhaps informal trainings and speaking. My Romanian is actually weaker than my English, however, and I'm afraid of the typical "it'll be just three dudes in the grass" that can happen with flopped events. People my age are viciously consumeristic a lot of the time, especially considering how many are born into money and don't see it as a concretion of "life spent", as I do.
  • I want advice with a useful (I consider it a worthwhile investment, as I input my plentiful time into it for a rather wide variety of fields I could branch into and maybe, just maybe... connections to make) but unpleasant and short-term unuseful upcoming year of college. I have an attitude issue, to an almost childish extent, where I just hate a subject so much that I become too outraged to absorb it, which wastes a lot of my stability and time. If I could improve my attitude, the whole "absorb info, expel it at an exam, move on" process could cost less. I need positive things to focus on and engage me to make time feel worthwhile and to keep my severe depressive tendencies at bay.
  • I want a healthier attitude towards an objectively broken set of rules and mentalities around me. I want what I have, I'm very happy and empowered with what I have in virtually every area of my life, but people around me are often self-destructive and misguided, poor and rich alike. I can't save them, nor can I spend all of my life being angry about them. However, I fear looking unempathetic and indifferent when not striving to fix everyone around me.
  • I want any kind of advice I can get, regarding anything I may be doing right or wrong. I've read most of MMM's blog, and it has fundamentally altered my perception of life, but a woefully large portion of it simply doesn't apply to me yet, as I have little functional power over my surroundings or net worth right now. I want to know what kind of "non-job, non-money" lifestyle improvements I can make ahead of time so that I can step into broader adulthood with less to figure out "in the thick of it". As I've said, I got rather good at cooking, especially cheap, healthy, plentiful food, with oats being my eternal fallback... I'm dabbling into home projects and getting used to bike trips, I'm doing home maintenance more efficiently and enjoyably, I'm disconnecting my happiness from instant gratification... But I don't feel like I'm doing enough to be ready once money starts flowing in and out. I'm striving to work on putting things into their place, as I don't want to end up like many couples can end up: having to handle all of life all of a sudden.

    Hopefully the moderate formatting will make up for the wall of text. I thank you for your time, and I'm as glad to be here as I am open to any feedback or advice :)
« Last Edit: September 10, 2016, 01:18:02 PM by Cy »

sailinlight

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As I am not Romainian (or even European), I am not sure I can provide so much useful advice, but I do live in Italy (though I am American).  It is my understanding that you are free to work in any of the EU countries.  Your English skills seem impeccable so I would imagine that it should not be so hard to land a tech job in Germany, the UK (until the brexit is done), Ireland, or Italy even where wages seem much higher than your home country.  I know net wages in Italy for qualified software engineers with whom I work is usually a bit over 2k euros per month.  Have you explored looking for a job outside of Romania after graduation?

Tester

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Writing on pbone, mistakes were made....
Romanian, now living in the USA for one and a half years.
You are in a Computer Science faculty.
Before I left Romania I was earning 2000 euro net.
So you can FIRE right there if you want. You have to be what I call "LUCKY". I consider myself lucky because I had the opportunity to learn from good teachers.
And I was lucky to get to an interview where I did good.
From there I was lucky to be good for some more years.
...I hope you get it.

I will post a more detailed response soon because I can see you are disoriented on what is available.

One thing I would suggest to reconsider is your thinking about what you are learning. That antiquated thing is there to make you think. If you get the ha it of thinking correctly you will learn the te h stuff easily.
I can tell you that I finished the automatics section of a technical university.
I only had one programming course per semester, not advanced stuff.
Bit I had teachers in the automatics part which made me think the right way. Especially the systems theory course was very useful. And the fact that most of the professors had businesses in the automatics field so they were showing us the practical meaning of the mathematics...

Again about money: I was earning 2000 Eur as a tester - I was writing code, manual testing, project managing the testing part, interviewing.... So I was doing a lot and learning a lot. But I had colleagues who earned more - developers with better skills than mine in the development part managers....
I am sure you can find very good payment in Romania in this field if you are good and passionate about it.

And not last: if you are not good you won't find good jobs anywhere. So I would focus on understanding if you like what you do. And if you think you like it invest in it. Work you ass off.  Ow you have time to focus on this. Of course, have fun too. Just not too much, it al.ost cost me a lot. I repeated one year because I was not focused on the right thing. But that lost year made me realize what I liked...
« Last Edit: September 10, 2016, 02:45:08 PM by Tester »

Moonwaves

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I take it you are studying for some kind of IT degree? What exactly are you studying, why did you choose it and what do you think you'd like to work at once you are finished college? You don't have to actually know that last one but it might be helpful to try and get down your reasoning on paper. It can help clarify some things.

Similarly to sailinlight my first thought was that some time abroad might be useful to you. Does your college/your degree offer the possibility of doing a semester abroad? That might be something to look into as you start your second year and might give you a more positive focus. Getting away from familiar surroundings and getting to meet entirely different people is a great experience (even when it's a shit experience to go through sometimes, I don't know anyway who hasn't looked back and found the good far outweighed the bad). If you don't have the possiblity to do it through college, try WWOOFing or something similar next summer.

But, don't be disappointed if you do end up finding more of the same type of people in other countries. The real key is that no matter where you are, there will always be some less mainstream thinkers somewhere around. Maybe they're hard to find, but they're always there somewhere. And in the meantime, try to stop letting other people's attitudes annoy you so much. It's okay to mention your principles/minimalism/whatever, don't try and hide it. But if they're not receptive to it, drop it, don't be the asshole who no-one wants to have around. Either you'll decide that you don't want to spend time with people with such wildly different ideas from you, or you'll end up occasionally having a pleasant evening, even while knowing that you don't support their lifestyle. People are more than just one thing - maybe the guy who pisses you off by spending all of his money on buying stuff is also the guy you can have fascinating discussions with on philosophy or literature. Or the girl that irritates you by having a madly cluttered apartment is the one you grew up next to who will always be able to share precious childhood memories with you. Or maybe those two people are just two people you'd rather not invest a whole lot of time in. Either way, you're so young, you're probably going to go through several iterations of similar phases. Your needs and wants will change over time, too and you'll be more sure of what exactly is important to you and what kinds of bullshit you can just take from people without getting irritated or upset.

Tester

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Ok,

At a normal keyboard now.

1. Regarding your second year of college:
Make sure you pass all your exams.
If you say you get scholarship I suppose you are doing ok right now.
The second year was the one I had to repeat.
And as you, it was because I did not like something. In my case it was a professor who cursed.
So as I did not go to the exams of course I did not get them :).
But as I said, that made me understand what I liked and that I have to work for this.
And after that I just had a very easy time learning - 8 AM at school, 11 hours of courses, go home, get out, play basketball, beer, party, start again.
The final exam was a joke for me, I only learned one week as I knew everything from the previous years.
Each year I had one or two courses I did not like/did not understand - but I managed to pass them with hard work.
The courses I liked I got good grades with small effort as I was really into learning everything I could.

Regarding you being ok with some programming languages:
Get good at one: algorithms - and I am not talking about international competitions good, I am talking about getting the right way of thinking.
If you can get good at logic and systems thinking I think it will help you be an engineer, not just "code writer".
My idea is that the engineering part makes you able to solve the problems, writing the code is the "easy" part if you have the solution designed correctly. And yes, it is not really the easy part, but solving the problem is the most important in my opinion.


Regarding social life: I also went to college in my own town - make one two friends and go party with them in the campus.
I had two friends in my faculty and then I had former highschool colleagues in other faculties.
We went to parties in all campuses, depending on what was available.

Regarding financial parts:
I think you are fine by thinking about it. But don't let it overwhelm your life right now. Your parents are right about one thing: Now it is the time for you to get to test various things while you are free - you don't have family, kids, you don't need money. If you don't do them now you won't do them later. Use this freedom to explore what you like.

About the Workisbad:
When I first started working I was selling computers in a shop - it was not bad, but it was not fun either. Not to mention the wage :). But I still learned.
After one year I got an interview and got to work as a tester/junior developer.
I can tell you that work was fun.
Now, after 10 years, work is still fun, although I am more a developer now that a tester (long story, tester roles changed....). I still like more the testing role, but I am ok with the development part of my work as it is developing tools/frameworks to help developers get products faster with better quality. So even if I am not directly finding so many bugs as before, I am still contributing to what I like the most: perfection.
And yes, perfection is not there, but I learned to compromise in order to get the good project done than to wait forever for the perfect project.

About "own flaws and mental illnesses" - if you are writing this here I think you should seek help?
What kind of mental illnesses do you have/do you think you have?

Regarding "everyone else is a hoarder": are you sure? Everyone? Do you know what a hoarder means?
I agree that most people have more stuff than they need, but that does not make them hoarders.
Also, if the hoarders do not try to force into hoarding, why should you spend so much energy trying to make them minimalists?
If you will get more relaxed about other people options and decisions you might get a better social life.
You have to do it or you won't be bale to work.
I can tell you that with all my managers I had divergences. Even with the one I consider the best manager in the world from my point of view. If I think more, she is a leader, not a manager.
I also had a very bad manager - very bright but with methods I am considering very bad.
Well, what can you do - give your best and understand what is happening, try to change, try to change them too, but don't get focused on showing the others they are wrong and you are teaching them how to live/work.
That won't get you too far.
Make sure you set your boundaries and don't go over them because that will make you miserable - I did this for one year and it was very bad - now I am back with a good manager and things are much better.
So: don't obsess about making everyone perfect - try to help them and that's it. You can't force the horse to drink the water.


And last: you are young - I hope you are prepared for change. You will change - some parts will get better, some worse.
Try to remain open to learning new things. Be open to other people - you can learn a lot from the good ones, but you will be surprised how much you can learn from the bad ones.

Cy

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About "own flaws and mental illnesses" - if you are writing this here I think you should seek help?
What kind of mental illnesses do you have/do you think you have?
I've been diagnosed with depression and general anxiety disorder. Both have been better in the past months but my therapist was something of a profiteur, so I stopped going. Therapy is crazy expensive here and I've been making more progress on my own.
Regarding "everyone else is a hoarder": are you sure? Everyone? Do you know what a hoarder means?
I agree that most people have more stuff than they need, but that does not make them hoarders.
Everyone in my physically close family, and we're talking "keep all of the empty jars of mustard we've ever used up", "attic unreachable because of insane amounts of dead weight", "pantry 75% filled by old, rusted items that we keep because money was spent on them", "I need those hundreds of books that have been untouched", "keep all the booze bottles because they are decorative" kind of hoarders. Even stuff we use, we have 2-3 times the amount of items we really use.
Also, if the hoarders do not try to force into hoarding, why should you spend so much energy trying to make them minimalists?
It's not about my ego... I feel like I'm missing an opportunity to improve their lives with every interaction we have. I feel like I could genuinely help them be happier



I take it you are studying for some kind of IT degree? What exactly are you studying, why did you choose it and what do you think you'd like to work at once you are finished college? You don't have to actually know that last one but it might be helpful to try and get down your reasoning on paper. It can help clarify some things.
It's kind of what I picked under the cluelessness and positive pressure of "IT is the future" when I was fresh out of school. I knew nothing at 18, and I barely know more now. I am fully aware I'm just a kid. If anything, I'm looking for ways to fast-forward that now. I do have some affinity for programming, but I'd be lying if I knew what it truly implies and feels like, since we barely did any in college so far, and even that just reiterations of old rote-learned algorithms.

And in the meantime, try to stop letting other people's attitudes annoy you so much. It's okay to mention your principles/minimalism/whatever, don't try and hide it. But if they're not receptive to it, drop it, don't be the asshole who no-one wants to have around. (...) and you'll be more sure of what exactly is important to you and what kinds of bullshit you can just take from people without getting irritated or upset.

Here's the thing, though... It's not that I get irritated or upset about them thinking differently from me. I feel completely at peace with others living differently. It's that I can't stand myself missing an opportunity to cause some positive change. Some people have felt enlightened by our talking, and they've gone on to spread that forward to others. If I don't throw all of my revelations at someone, knowing that I could, I feel like I'm part of the problem... I try to be socially flexible and light-hearted, but when we meet somewhere, and they are poorer than me, yet still get the economically adjusted, literal equivalent of a $20 glass of "fresh juice" from a stall or unaffordable Subway sandwich (with an unadjusted price from what you'll find in the UK, which is deadly for Romanian middle class people) while I sip some smoothie I made at home, it hurts my mind. I feel like I have to help or they will kill themselves. They destroy their own scarce funding and then refuse to exit the house or complain about not being able to go biking because they have no money. A cheap bike here costs about as much as a few months of getting it together, financially.  They are living in a self-inflicted subtle misery that I feel I'm either going to burn myself up trying to fix, or support by struggling to be indifferent towards it. I could technically "not care", but how could I not care about the sustainable happiness of people I claim to be close to? I'm afraid of being insensitive or forcedly unemotional. And it erodes my faith in them as I struggle not to see all of the rather obvious improvements that are one step away from where they are..

pbkmaine

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It's very hard for people to change. Yes, even when they are made miserable by their choices. You can't fix other people. Lead your own life as best you can. Give them an example to follow if they choose. But do not nag them. It doesn't work. I was a financial planner for many years, and helping people make positive changes is the most difficult thing we do, even though they pay us lots of money to help them. So focus your energy on optimizing your own life.

Tester

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I will try to address some things, hopefully it will help.

I feel your pain when you see people destroying themselves and you see they don't want to listen to you.
But as you said you are diagnosed with depression, I think you owe you your best effort to get well.
And felling guilty for their actions is not the best way to get out of it.
Try to give them examples, talk with them once, then let it go.
You are not guilty for their actions.
You won't be able to fix the world and bring peace to the world if you will get into deeper depression because of this.
If you want to improve the world do it one step at a time.
And it takes time, so make sure you are healthy so you can improve it for a long time.


It is good to have strong beliefs in a way of living/acting - but you have to get healthy so you can live a good life which will impact others too.

Forget about the  financial part for now. Find a way to get healthy.
I learned that I would rather be healthy than get more money.
If I could get back to my health from 10 years ago I would do it now.
And I think an important part of what I got is caused by myself stressing because I can't improve everything, I can't be perfect.
That perfectionist part helped me be good at my job - but it also made me not satisfied with myself.
Mostly I can't get over the fact that I am lazy - and the fact that I know I can do better.
Well, that stress did not bring good things.
I am still learning to let go and to be ok with very good/good instead of perfect.

So, if you can, focus on the good things and not on the negative things.
Instead of felling bad that they do not change feel good that you tried to help them.
I still think you are young and this can be a "normal" period in life when you really realize that you won't change the world, the world is not perfect and so on.
Yes, it is true, but I hope that you will also see soon that you can find happiness in almost anything.


So, to finish my rant: stop beating yourself for others.
You will experience worse things than you do now - prepare for that :).
Find a way to contribute and feel good with how you contribute.
Lead your life based on your beliefs - don't try to force others to your beliefs.

Paul der Krake

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I have worked with some kickass Romanian developers. If CS is what you want to do, do it 100%. Study algorithms and CS interview questions while in school. Do it 2-3 hours a week for 2 years and you will get a job anywhere in the world.