People think of Europe as a prosperous place. In comparison to much of the world, it really is. However, this “Europe” is not only the Europe of the Eiffel Tower and fashionable clothes. Its also the Europe of Albania, the Ukraine, Romania and Belarus, where life is much harder.
One of my classmates, here as an exchange student from a former Soviet republic, wants desperately to immigrate to Canada or the United States. (Legally, mind you.) She isn’t the only one who wouldn’t pass up the opportunity of moving- I’ve talked with several of my classmates from other countries where there simply are no opportunities to speak of. Really, none. Even with a higher education and a Masters degree, job prospects are very few.
It’s especially tragic because my classmates are earning degrees in political science. Some of them are from places with extremely corrupt political systems, and there’s little chance of them being able to even enter the system, much less change it. When I ask these peers what they’d like to do with their degrees, a few have confessed to wanting to work in an embassy and be a diplomat. However, like any good governmental job, this will never be a reality for them without connections that they don’t have. Unlike the United States where you take a test and earn your position in the Foreign Service based off your merit, the only way you can enter the Foreign Service for many of these Eastern European countries is through knowing the right people. If your family isn’t well connected, your options are extremely limited.
I sometimes ask my classmates if they like where they are from, and if they see themselves living there both in the immediate future and later on in life. Whenever they turn the question on me, I always find myself a little stumped, and aware of my privileged position to even have the option of living in the United States. I don’t have to dream about it. It’s my home, and I know its ups and downs. I am lucky to be able to say that I’ll probably go back to the United States because not only because it’s where my family and friends live, but also because the most opportunities await me there.