I know I shouldn’t write this. When ever I get asked this, I go into rant mode and start talking about priorities and not spending money. I don’t know if I can give advice because I’ve just always had opportunity.
I lived in a small remote town, where most people made a lot of money, but the education facilities less than stellar. Picture this: for years 11 and 12, most of my subjects (Biology, Chemistry, History, Accounting, and for a while, Maths) were done via distance education. My school had around 6000 residents, and they couldn’t find a Biology teacher?
As I said, a lot of people made pretty good money in this remote town, and as such, a lot of families sent their kids to boarding school. Even the teachers did. Which is why my TEE group (aka the students heading to university) was a total of eight when I was in year 12, the last year of highschool. My parents asked me whether I wanted to go to boarding school for my 5 years of highschool ($60,000-$120,000), or if I wanted them to pay my way through uni.
I chose uni, which look like an incredible amount of foresight on my part, but I can’t really remember what I was thinking. Probably that boarding school would be an incredible waste of money since I hated school and practically never did any homework (as opposed to my sister who did about three hours of homework a night – we went to the same school). Considering that uni entrance is based on exam scores, I managed to get accepted to two universities (which probably says more about the standards of these unis – at least is wasn’t the University of Lagos). My parents paid for most of my uni (coming to about $60,000 – including a semester abroad in England). I also worked part-time and took a semester off at one point because I needed to make more money.
I ended up graduating with a degree in Biology and Environmental Chemistry, and got offered a job straight away in my old hometown (long story here, but basically it’s impossible to find accommodation there, so I had the advantage of not needing housing provided). I was kind of disappointed, because I’d had this vision of selling my car and travelling South East Asia, but figured more money was good, right? Anyway, long story short, I saved, spent $200-300 a week on rent and food (yes, my parents charged rent – why shouldn’t they, I was earning), rode my bike to work, brought my morning tea and lunch and yes, splurged on the occasional shopping spree and high-end gadgets. I saved a lot of money (almost $40,000 after selling my car) in just over a year, and then left for a long trip across Australia.
After driving across the top of Australia, down the East Coast, across to Melbourne and around Tasmania, I took a plane to Malaysia. After two and a half months of ‘backpacking’, I came back to Australia to live for about nine months. I have a lot less cash now – I haven’t worked since I got back because I’m too lazy, then because I had uni, then because I was going to leave soon anyway. Gympie doesn’t have too many jobs for people sticking only around for a month (although I could have tried my hand at picking beans…). Anyway, so I don’t have that massive safety net anymore, and you know what – it feels great! I thrive under pressure, and there’s way more pressure when you don’t have a safety net! So now I’m seriously considering TEFL in South Korea. It’s EXCITING!