Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

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Lucas
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Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby Lucas » Wed Feb 22, 2017 9:35 am

Yesterday I was reading about ETFs, and someone pointed me to Betterment, which seemed like a nice service, but one I cannot use for it "currently only operates in the United States, and [...] cannot accept customers residing outside the country" (moreover, those customers "must have a permanent U.S. address, a U.S. Social Security Number, and a checking account from a U.S. bank"). I cannot even go directly to Vanguard for ETFs, because they do not work with independent investors from South America. While there are two U.S. ETFs I buy in BRL, through local brokers, such investments would be subject to currency fluctuations.

While I suppose I will have found a workaround to that by the time I actually have good money to invest (and become knowledgeable enough to do it profitably), I hope I will be away from Brazil by then, because I have some good sense in me—it is also something some of you have suggested in my journal. Since I began to think about financial independence, admittedly just a little while ago, I realized that most of the good ideas or strategies I came up with or across are either made impossible or complicated by my residing in this country.

(I mean, even simple advice like "walk or bike to work" demands additional consideration here. I remember an ex-colleague who barely escaped from being raped while on her way to work in the frigging morning, and the bastards snatched her purse. This is not an unusual sort of happening for us, and I have had my own share of similar experiences.)

Far from just making excuses—indeed, I am taking action—I must consider these special circumstances in planning for the future. And if I intend to leave these lands, I cannot ignore the fact that immigration is presently a delicate matter, so I figure Caesar's wife must not only be skilled, but also appear to be skilled in order to be regarded as a desirable addition to another country's workforce (and population).

Even if I manage to become proficient in a useful area and acquire work experience—notwithstanding the difficulty of finding a job given that the fetish for external badges or simulacra of education is inversely proportional to the availability of real education—I doubt that would be good enough when applying for a work/residence visa. Hence I have been reconsidering the idea of getting a degree.

Now, colleges in Brazil would probably be considered degree-mills in a lot of places, and my experience of taking humanity classes was punishment enough for my folly, but I suppose that taking an advanced STEM course in one of the few serious institutions could not possibly resemble that—the complexity would probably sift the chaff away, and I trust there would not be the long monologues about how the guy who shot someone twice in the head for an iPhone is but a poor victim of society.

It is possible to accomplish that, to get a degree, without paying tuition. Brazilian federal and state universities' courses are free, and those are our elite institutions, although the vast majority of our college students are enrolled in costly private institutions. In case you are wondering why the heck they would do that, our public universities do have a few catches:

  1. It is hard to get in. This is changing, government is coming up with alternative entrance programs, quotas for ethnic groups, etc., but the requirements for the best courses are still set too high for most Brazilians, who come out of high school barely literate. Ironically, most students in our public institutions, founded to make higher education available for the poorer, are the few who can afford rather costly preparatory courses.

  2. It is hard to stay in. Not necessarily because the courses are hard, but since the schedules tend to be absurd. Sometimes it is almost impossible to study and work, even for those who take night courses.

  3. It is far from unusual for a course to take longer than the necessary because of politically-motivated strikes, which are hardly sporadic.
I can deal with #1, but #2 and #3 are trickier. An engineering course would take 5 years, during which I probably would not be making much money (if at all), so there is the opportunity cost to ponder.

Be that as it may, what do you ladies and gentlemen think? Am I mistaken in my reasoning? Can you recommend better alternatives?

P.S.: I have researched the theme, in this forum and elsewhere, but most of what I found did not seem to apply to my context. As for the very good suggestions you have already given me, in the aforementioned journal, about things I could learn by myself (writing, programming, etc.), I think it would take too long to develop them to the point of making up for a degree, in terms of emigrating, and I still can study them on the side.

George the original one
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby George the original one » Wed Feb 22, 2017 12:05 pm

I believe most educated immigrants come to the USA on a student visa and then slide into employment rather than coming with degree in hand. Have you looked into applying to USA schools?

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Dragline
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby Dragline » Wed Feb 22, 2017 12:15 pm

Obtaining an H1-B work visa is difficult -- even with a STEM degree -- and is likely to become even more difficult under the current administration. So I would not embark on a course of study like that unless it made sense even if you could not move to the US.

GTOH is correct on the student visa -- but finding work on a student visa is problematic as well.

In your shoes, I think I would be researching other countries besides the US, including Canada and Panama, which has a growing economy with the new locks open now and has a vibe like Miami of the 1980s.

BTW, there is nothing special about Betterment. Most people here are likely under the view that it's just an extra cost for something you can do yourself.

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BRUTE
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby BRUTE » Wed Feb 22, 2017 11:09 pm

-1 Betterment
+1 STEM degree

all the Brazilians brute has met have been very well educated. all of them engineers. so Brazilian universities seem to be pretty good. a good STEM degree will likely lead to better job prospects in pretty much any country, even Brazil itself - or the US, Canada, Europe, Australia..

Lucas
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby Lucas » Thu Feb 23, 2017 9:00 am

@George the original one: It is something I have considered, but I do not have the means to do that in the foreseeable future, so I will strive to improve in the areas over which I currently have some measure of control.

@Dragline: My goal is leaving Brazil to settle down in a more reasonable place, but it does not have to be a specific country right now—not even a particular continent: I have heard exciting comments about some areas in Asia, for instance. I had never studied Panama, though, so thank you for the suggestion.

I only mentioned Betterment to illustrate the situation; it was just something I was reading about—after all, it will take a while before I can even start to invest—but in any case I believe that my options will be limited, and my efforts stymied, by the mere fact of living in Brazil—hence my intention of departing.

@BRUTE: I am thinking along the same lines, BRUTE. I would only argue about the quality of Brazilian universities—this seems to be an incidence of survival bias: you met those engineers because they are exceptionally good (the majority of their peers being stuck here, struggling to find a job), and they most probably have educated themselves despite the institutions where they have studied, which is exactly what I intend to do. Then again, like I wrote before, even here the STEM courses cannot possibly be as messed up for political reasons as the Humanities, so who knows.

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Ego
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby Ego » Thu Feb 23, 2017 1:24 pm

Pagliaccio wrote:I spend most of my waking hours reading, so I guess .......


Forgive the cross-post. I read this and it triggered a though, Some may see this as heresy, but here goes....

Stop reading. There I said it. I mean it in the nicest way possible.

You've got a problem and you are searching for a solution. Chances are, the solution is not in a book or on a web page. The solution is out there. You've got to go and find (or make) it.

I know. Easy for me to say. I agree. It is. Bear with me.

On Tuesday I had tea/coffee in the park with a new friend I met in a class I took recently. Turns out he is ERE (and I think he might be a lurker here) who grew up in another country. Back in his country he spent time meeting new people (networking.... blek!) and met an American girl, they fell in love, got married and decided to live in the US. He got a green card and got a tech job not long after arriving. He continued with the frugal mindset he brought from home and saved most of his salary for a few years. Now he is free to follow his passion.

No, I am not saying you should go out and find an American/Euro/Australian to marry. I am saying that rather than spending your day reading about the hurdles you face, go out and start exploiting the advantages you have and use them to meet new and unusual people. Practice the art of conversation and ask questions that allow people to talk about themselves. It's amazing the things people will tell an interested listener. Whole worlds can open up in an instant when you meet the right person at the right time.

Good luck!

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CECTPA
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby CECTPA » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:48 pm

Ego, that highly depends on personality.

For example, I have been wanting to escape Russia since I was able to make judgements about the societal differences between countries, meaning since I was a teenager. I have a personality of Sheldon Cooper from TBBT, I'm not kidding, I'm the most annoying INTJ you've ever met. I had to rely on myself, slowly moving towards my goal by getting a degree and then an appropriate work experience, keeping my goal always in my mind. I was able to move to Canada when I was 31, so it took me a long time.

My brother is an extrovert, and ESTP, he's been all over the place all his life, engaging in numerous start-ups, just doing whatever strikes his passion and living in a moment. "Getting out there" as you described it. He's got a job in Stockholm and a permanent resident now. He doesn't even have a degree.

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Ego
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby Ego » Sun Feb 26, 2017 7:53 pm

Precisely why I dislike Myers-Briggs. A tool is only as good as how it is used. If someone uses it to learn about their tendencies as a base from which to build... great! When I see people say, "I refuse to do X because I am INTJ," I consider it the same as saying, "I refuse to exercise because I don't like to sweat".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labeling_theory

Some people are more influenced by the labels that are applied to them than others. It is becoming increasingly commonplace for people to seek out labels and tattoo them prominently so as to avoid confronting weaknesses.

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CECTPA
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby CECTPA » Sun Feb 26, 2017 8:25 pm

Oh, Ego, I can attest that the MB type can change with efforts or just with a situation change, that's for sure! I have been scoring ISFJ at the times I was a bedside nurse. That was a neurotic and uncomfortable experience. Now I'm back to normal, working in the office as a care coordinator, having time to think things through, less chaos, more opportunities of being strategical, less people around, and I'm calm, happy and even not really that desperate about retirement. Also I'm meeting the 'right' people from Quality Improvement department that are extremely pleased with my work this is the type of networking that works just fine for my personality. Don't think that hanging out with critical care nurses or ER managers can do me any good in terms of networking, because I suck in ER.
So I'm not the one sticking the labels on, I'm just saying that trying not to be oneself can have very uncomfortable outcomes.

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YoungAndWise
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby YoungAndWise » Mon Feb 27, 2017 1:59 am

I agree with CECTPA.

For some people, networking is not their forte and attempts to do so really don't work or make them feel out-of-place. And for those people who want to emigrate, a good education or getting a strong job skillset is their ticket out.

For different people, different strategies work.

NPV
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby NPV » Wed Mar 01, 2017 6:32 am

How about studying in Germany? (Almost) free high quality education, reasonably strong economy and good quality of life.

Lucas
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby Lucas » Fri Mar 03, 2017 4:40 pm

@Ego: I like it how, in this forum, contributing something useful to a discussion takes precedence over some of the usual formalities—such as not "reviving" old threads, etc.—thus I am fine with, and thankful for, your cross-pollination.

I think I understand where your advice comes from; however, as useful as it would be in a normal situation, my surroundings constitute an abnormality of sorts, which means that there are some further considerations to be made.

First, since I do not have enough money to just do as I please, and given that I live in a place inhabited by people who do not seem to have notions of personal space, who, furthermore, regard signs of introversion as quasi-pathological (at the very least), you can be sure that I have no lack of human interaction.

And, surprisingly, I fare well when it comes to conversation. I can speak with people on their level, whichever walk of life they are hailing from, and discuss things of their interest. Crowds irk me, but I have no trouble dealing with individuals.

Not only that, but I also believe that my experience when it comes to communication, as a highly introverted person raised in a third-world country, is richer than that of the average extrovert living in developed areas, for it includes special scenarios—for instance, dealing with individuals prone to actually shoot someone for a bad choice of words.

The problem is, there is nothing out there for me. Not here, not in this town. There is no place I would like to go—I enjoy places where I can sit down and have some peace and quiet, or have a deep conversation with someone; there is no such thing here, though: no cafes; no peaceful libraries; and if I sit on a bench in a square, I have to be aware of my surroundings, ready to fight back in case someone wants to mug me.

There are really few people I actually look forward to meeting, and these I do visit when I can, but that is that. Otherwise, most chance encounters are all about being informed about the lives of others—who is pregnant, who has been arrested, who has been fired, and on and on—or getting long rants about pets, or perhaps an ideological raving. "Networking" is more of the same, but with terrible "music" and drunkenness.

As I have discovered, much to my chagrin, moving to a big city means that the exceptions are less rare; there is the occasional cafe, there may be a theatre, a library may be large enough so that there is at least one silent corner, and, sure enough, it is less hard to find people interested in something that goes beyond the realm of sexual satisfaction.

Come to think of it, the point is less about finding someone interested in something interesting, but just finding someone interested—period. I mean, things are messed up, so the average fellow just grinds on and on. I ask about their work, and they do not care to talk about it—they hate their job. If I ask about their hobbies, they have none. They do not read, so no talk about good books. And although most do not seem to realize, there is a point when hearing about soap operas, imported shoes, or yet another breakup gets tiresome.

Anyway, just like with communication, and for the same reasons, I cannot say I have "missed out" in life so far. My experiences have been rich and unusual, and I am far from having spent my days in a bubble.

But indeed, this is for sure, I want to go outside and meet new people and visit new places and learn many different things. In fact, this is one of the reasons why I want to leave this country—so staying indoors will not be the most effective strategy to grow and evolve (and to keep myself sane and alive).

I have no illusions, I am not looking forward to a Utopia; but let me ask: when you leave your house, do you think that there is a high possibility that your vehicle (be it a car or a humble bicycle) will be taken from you, along with anything else that you are carrying, and that it is even likely, in such case, you may suffer serious harm even if you offer no resistance? My current answer to that is "yes."

Conversely, I ask: If you want to go out just to be on your own, to relax without having to constantly look over your shoulder, are there many places you can choose? If you want to take classes to actually be taught something (mind: not just for a degree or qualification, but to actually learn), are there serious options for that? If you decide to meet new people, is it at least somewhat likely that you will find someone you can relate to and/or who is passionate about something, so you can have an engaging conversation (instead of being expected to drink yourself to toleration)? Well, I would have to answer "no" to those.

I would like to move somewhere where being hassled/harmed is less likely than learning something or having a deep conversation as an outcome for leaving my house, and where being left alone and having my space respected is a reasonable expectation. Even so I believe I would read a lot, since I find this to be a thoroughly enjoyable activity—but then, I imagine, I would not dread the alternatives so much.

@CECTPA: Oh, I can relate. I know how hard it is when your country's very culture is contrary to relevant aspects of your nature. Could you please share more about how you managed to "escape?"

@YoungAndWise: I do not have the trouble of wanting to "network" and being unable to, or falling short; no, instead, here it usually is just not worth it, being as pleasurable or stimulating as ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, only for it to fall back, then repeating the process—and I cannot imagine Sisyphus happy.

@NPV: Germany or Finland, Canada or Australia... There are a number of good options, for one reason or another, but my means are currently limited; I think that, to borrow from YoungAndWise's words, a good education and/or a strong job skill-set can be the way out, but, by all means, if there is a way I can leave before I acquire those, I will be most glad to.

Lucas
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby Lucas » Tue Mar 07, 2017 6:48 am

With hindsight, I should probably have waited until I learned about foreign withholding taxes before I started feeling annoyed at my being a Brazilian citizen; I had not foreseen a 30% cut on my dividends when considering investing in U.S. index funds. Fantastic.

halfmoon
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby halfmoon » Tue Mar 07, 2017 11:32 pm

@Pagliaccio, do you mean that the US withholds a 30% tax on US dividends? As a US taxpayer, I can take a credit for foreign tax paid that directly offsets US tax owed. Does Brazil offer this? Of course, a credit is only useful if you're actually in a taxable bracket.

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CECTPA
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby CECTPA » Wed Mar 08, 2017 8:51 pm

Pagliaccio wrote:@CECTPA: Oh, I can relate. I know how hard it is when your country's very culture is contrary to relevant aspects of your nature. Could you please share more about how you managed to "escape?"


I just opened this page
http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/apply.asp
and started doing whatever they wanted me to do. The process was quite straightforward in terms of Canadian bureaucracy, just provide them whatever they are asking for. The most fun was on the Russian side, where I had to bribe my university clerks in order to get errors in my transcript fixed. And where I had to hire lawyers to fight with registry so that I could get my name change certificate. BTW, the lawyers were not successful, registry won and I had to tell the Canadian Embassy that the reasonable effort was made to provide paperwork, but sorry, dude, it's Russia. The Embassy was fine with that. In Russia it is all about the 'reasonable effort'. So I was given an immigration visa and not going back to Russia ever again. I have enough snow here.
Good luck!

Lucas
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Re: Getting a degree? (I live in Brazil and intend to emigrate)

Postby Lucas » Sat Mar 11, 2017 5:05 pm

@halfmoon: Not only dividends, but "most types of U.S. source income paid to a foreign person" [source]. Most countries impart similar taxation, though. In my case, there are no tax treaties between Brazil and the United States, so I would have to "pay" the full 30%.

As for recovering the discounted values, I surely intend to do everything I can honestly do to avoid losing money, but I know my government well enough, particularly when it has to do with getting money back from it, to set my hopes high, let alone count with fairness.

@CECTPA: Got it. I was already familiar with that webpage (it seems I do not qualify to move to Canada under any of the listed modalities), and I can surely relate to your experience with Russian bureaucracy—by the way, I am glad you have succeeded!


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