Sunday, May 27, 2012

I is for I Really Think You Should Reconsider, John Key.

Dear John*,

Hello. We don't know each other, but I have a few things to say to you so I thought I'd write you a letter.

I already know quite a bit about you so to make things even I'll tell you a bit about me. My name is Amy. I'm 24. I'm currently living in Rotorua, but I was born in Stratford, grew up in Whakatane, and then spent six years at university in Wellington. Gosh, I get around a bit, don't I? Starting to see where Colin Craig was coming from.

Have you been to Rotorua? We don't have any famous people or sports folk for you to hand-shake on the tele so probably not. That's okay. I wasn't so crash-hot on the idea of moving here either. Turns out it's actually a kinda nice place! But I digress.

I am in my final year of my post-graduate diploma in Clinical Psychology. I did three years of undergraduate psychology, a year of Honours, and now I'm in my third of three years of clinical. One's third year of clinical involves working four full-time days per week as an intern psychologist, attending a full day (9 till 4.30) of classes on a Friday, and doing assignments and exam preparation in the evenings and weekends.

Are you ready for the twist? Because here it is: the Government, and then very quickly the DHBs, run out of money.. so most of our internships are unpaid. Only five of the fourteen of us in my class got paid placements, and the other nine.. well, we're living on whatever you deign to loan/give us. I am one of the unpaid ones, and I took a very very faraway internship in Rotorua because there weren't enough in Wellington and it's really cheap to live here and also it was nice and close to my mum and I quite like her.

For me, it's my first year of student allowance because even though my father makes terrible financial decisions and therefore is barely scraping by paycheck-to-paycheck, apparently he was earning enough for support me up until my 24th birthday. He didn't, but nobody really seemed to care too much about that. Including myself, to be honest, because in undergrad I had enough spare time to have a part-time job (and anyone who says they don't is either lying or working way too damn hard) and I even managed to save up enough money to see me through Honours.

Things went to hell in a handbasket after that financially. During my first and second years of clinical I was living in the only apartment in the city which I could actually afford with my $160 living costs, and then entirely supporting myself off the $40 a week I made tutoring. It was kind of fine though, in a way, because I was only a student so on the weeks I couldn't afford washing powder I just wore dirty clothes. Bikinis became 'clean underwear'. Dirty underwear turned inside out also became 'clean underwear'. Any shirt that didn't smell bad became a 'clean shirt'. It was kind of charming, in a really gross way.

But then, in my third year of clinical, two things happened. One: I stopped having the spare time to even run a couple of tutorials a week (refer to above schedule). Two: I became an intern psychologist, which meant clean clothes. All the time. Clean, nice clothes. All. The. Time.

But that's okay! Student allowance to the rescue! In an amazing feat of for once in my life having amazing timing, I turned 24 three weeks before my internship started. Hallelujah! Praise the lords! In a fortunate twist of fate, the first year that I actually really needed the allowance, I was eligible for it, and it has been amazing. And not because the money is free, John. I think this is where people get confused. I'm not afraid of debt. My generation can't afford to be. Between course fees and living costs and course-related costs, I've been borrowing $10k a year for the past six years. Sick as it is, I'm okay with having to borrow to be able to live. I barely even cry when I see my student loan balance anymore.

But the thing is, in this country, you can't actually borrow enough to exist. If I could only borrow $160 per week this year, I could not survive. I could certainly not survive well enough to be a competent, healthy and non-olfactorally-offensive psychologist. And if I was living in Wellington, where my rent was $50 per week more expensive to live in a flat with cardboard walls and a lounge without windows, well, same thing, but actually bordering on hilarious.

But for some reason, while you can only borrow up to $160, if you qualify for allowance you get GIVEN at least $200. If the roles were reversed, and I could be handed $160 or borrow $200, I'd borrow the $200. I'm not trying to steal your precious money, John. I don't give a bucket if you give it to me, or I borrow it, or it falls from the sky. I need enough money to pay my rent and buy my food and my shampoo and my laundry powder and my pantyhose because apparently, I have to be able to afford to dress like a grown-up now.

So imagine my dismay when I saw that you were taking away student allowance for postgraduate students, without any mention of increasing the amount they were able to borrow.

I'd really love to know what the plan is there, John. What the end goal looks like. Because right now, what I'm hearing is:

"Unless you are living at home, have parents that will pay your rent, or are middle-aged and have been saving up for a while, you cannot do postgraduate study."

You know how that's going to end? That's going to end with a university even more filled with people like you.

You know what we need? The opposite of that.

I almost said some very mean things about you just then but I refrained (and by refrained I mean typed them, and then deleted them) because I don't think that would be particularly helpful. What would be helpful is you telling me what the flying fuck the interns of 2013 are supposed to do.

Yours in disappointment and dismay,

*I asked on Twitter how one is supposed to address you, and answers ranged from 'Muppet' to 'Your Royal Highness' and back to 'Cunt' but I didn't particularly fancy any of those so I hope calling you John is okay. Please don't double my taxes or cut out my tongue.**

**I've been reading the 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series a bit too much lately. Have you read them? They're great.


  1. This is great beyond words.

  2. Awesome but one error is med and dent undergrad student do work too hard for part time jobs and not all at the moment come from upperclassman thank god but as u point out they will b soon cause no one from Stratford whakatane rotorua etcetc will have $ for study in Dunedin 6 yrs! Fucken fuckers! The only people dumber than John key are the muppets who didn't turn up to vote at all!

  3. I could write a huge response about how you are so right and have a good idea of what it's like but I'll just settle for saying....PREACH.

  4. I <3 you. You put my outrage in to words. Even though I have finished study, if I wasn't able to get student allowance in my post-graduate year, I would have been absolutely fucked. And I owe my career to my post-graduate year.

  5. Amy, your piece hit the nail on the head. This government has no friggin' idea when it comes to economics (I find it hard to believe that John Key has a qualification in Commerce, but wouldn't know an inequality line if it poked him in the arse) or when it comes to protecting those in society who require it i.e. students, beneficiaries, the elderly etc.

    All the best

  6. Amy, you've definitely hit the nail on the head. Most students could do a little bit of part-time work when doing undergraduate study but then it becomes harder when you undertake postgrad. Especially if you are doing internships as part of that. :(

    I have really missed your blogs!! So glad I found this one so I could add it to my reader.


  7. Love this Amy!! John Key needs to realise money doesn't actually grow on trees. Well theres no chance of that happening, National aren't too fond of the environment either.

  8. Thanks lovely lady, from a first-year-of-DClinPsy student.
    Glad to know that someone gets it.

  9. Love you work Amy - from another first year DClin Psych student!

  10. I was a more mature student when I was doing my degree and started my post grad, but as for having more money I had to support my two children who were also studying at the polytechnic...

  11. John Key needs to sit on a sword.

  12. This is the best thing I have read in a long time. Perfect summary, coming from a potential post-grad student dorked about by the system.

  13. I love it. I have two undergrad degrees that I funded with part-time jobs. Wasn't entitled to anything that the government had to offer (and that was before John Key came along to wreck things). My plan is to do my post-grad quals in Australia. I have to pay for them fully, but hey I can earn more here and the government gives me random money for other reasons that I don't really understand (who really cares whether I understand?). Good luck with your study and I hope you survive the year :)

    1. Depending on the qualification, you may actually be able to do them in Aussie for free: PhD for example at the University of Queensland is free for "Domestic" students, which includes NZers. I think we are going to be seeing more and more people doing this.

    2. I'm doing my PhD at Monash, and I pay zero fees. I think it's no fees across the board for Kiwis in Australia except for medicine.

    3. PhDs and Masters by research can be funded by scholarships in Australia, as domestic students, however clinical psychology is primarily coursework based and therefore has very few scholarships available. I'm a Kiwi in Australia, I worked for 2 years to pay my fees up front and I work throughout my course to support myself in full. Yes it's hard work but I'd still rather do it here than in NZ - I don't have a student loan, I don't have to report to the government, the part time work I do (i.e. tutoring) pays about 4 times as much as in NZ, and there are a greater number of placements available. Screw John Key.

  14. I don't know you but I think I may have just fallen in love you you (in a totally platonic way). This is awesome. I'm doing med post grad, if it wasn't for my boyfriend I wouldn't have enough money for food each week! I still don't understand why National were voted back in last year. It makes me angry, and sad that NZ would come to such a collective decision to fail ourselves.

  15. Have you actually sent this to him? Because it's super pertinent.
    From a psych hons student who can't afford to do the DClinPsy anymore.

  16. The fact that someone would require money yet is willing to bite the hand that feeds is disgusting,If you cannot afford to do such things without being able to pay for yourself you should think otherwise. People pay out of their taxes to pay your way interest free (at your gain/loss to economy) with out prejudice or discrimination to such one self (you being Amy.)The fact that you have a free will and choose to complain about a privilege that was not forced upon one self if further more dis concerning, as the role the tax payers are paying for you to be commenced in takes a good amount of trust. continued to the points of your post being prejudicial and discrimination to the NZ tax payer is unacceptable. Training to be in Clinical Psychology is clearly not where you should be if you cannot be grateful for what you have been dealt with in life. John is clearing the debt, at expenditure to yourself.

    Regards, NZ tax payer.

    1. I think one of the issues raised by Amy is that many simply can't afford to pursue post-grad education. Borrowing is limited to $170 a week, which obviously isn't enough to cover all expenses. The expectation that students should take out part-time jobs, or perhaps delay their studies until they have saved up enough to keep studying is understandable. However, the underlying issue to me is that it just isn't practical for many. Not actually possible.

      I really do understand the tax-payer argument, but I think its important to realise that this decision has real ramifications. It's not quite so simple as you might think.

  17. > The fact that someone would require money yet is willing to bite the hand that feeds is disgusting,

    Sorry Anonymous, but you don't represent the NZ taxpayer. As one, I'd be happy to see more psychologists, dentist, whatever else in NZ. They help make things better for everyone. Also, the problem is that the "hand" isn't feeding.

    What you seem to be saying is "because you're not happy you can't live on no money, you shouldn't get a qualification." That doesn't make sense. Amy says she'd be happy to borrow, but can't. I did the same thing going through uni: I could never get an allowance, and am still paying off my loan years later (luckily I studied in Dunedin where it's possible to live off of the smell of an oily rag.) I don't begrudge not getting the allowance (and I worked part time), and now I'm bringing money into the country. That's because part of the purpose of tertiary education is to create people who can do that. The country should sponsor them (to at least some degree) to make that possible.

    At the very least, it shouldn't make it impossible. Which is what these changes do.

    It seems that you just want to make NZ into a state of low education. That's a terrible option and you should be ashamed for thinking it's good.

  18. eythian: Don't feed the troll. The fact that "NZ tax payer" is unable to use English grammar (punctuation and syntax are your friends, as is spelling!) is a not-so-subtle clue.
    Amy: Please send this to John Key. He is probably unaware of the nitty-gritty of such things as borrowing limits and the fact that the cost of living has risen for the average student in the last few decades. He might then realise that allowing a student to have an allowance so they can finish their degree and enter paid employment is preferable to having them give up and go on the dole in frustration at the fact that the years they could have spent gaining useful skills for employment has been spent on potential qualifications which will now remain incomplete and thus unable to secure said employment. If he was aware of these facts, and the economic implications of them, he may reverse (or at least modify) his stance. No matter what some people have said about him, anyone with economics and employment knowledge such as his can't be the muppet they're portraying him as.

  19. Wow, this is really great Amy - a good insight in to how his policies affect individuals.

  20. Well done Amy, I am sure that John Key has not an iota of an idea of what it is really like trying to juggle down at the bottom of the heap. I am studying for my B.App.Science in Psychology while working 15 -20 hours a week as a 'contractor' which is a lovely way of saying I pay all my own expenses... earning past financial year =$3986 in the hand, then take $680 off that for tax. I do receive some DPB as I am a single Mum with 2 teenage daughters (also known as bottomless pits when it comes to feeding time) and the rest of my income comes to the princely sum of $200 per week after paying rent. I want to be able to give back to the taxpayer (which I have been for some 34 years so I have paid my share) as I am grateful to receive what I do. It is very demoralising to be paid at way less than the minimum wage legally. But I figure it is 3K I wouldn't have to spend on my girls otherwise. I have a student loan as now those of us on the DPB who want to further our education to be more productive (and show our children a good example by the by) are not funded for any study that attributes to a degree or diploma at this level. I scape by and purchase my own textbooks, and am lucky enough to have access to Open Polytech so I don't have travel costs, if I had to travel there is no way I could afford to study as I live North of Christchurch. The only way I have found to rationalise it all is that this is giving me experience and I can fully empathise with others who are living on next to nothing so when I do qualify and can work I will understand personally how affecting poverty is to a family. Oh, and WINZ still hound me to work full-time... evidently borrowing to study and being paid a pittance doesn't equal being productive to 'the govt'. As if there are plenty of jobs available in Canterbury if you aren't a construction worker!!! Thanks for the opportunity to vent my bit. And thanks for people like you who keep on keeping on, with all this madness you will have a good depth of understanding when you get to practice!

  21. So. What to do with your massive debt and your shiny new professional qualification.
    1. Stay in a low-wage economy and slowly pay your debt back over the next 20 years with the extra bonus of being penalised extra because you are female (yay gender bias

    2. Flee. Do a Forrest Gump and run to where your talents get appreciated. You don't even have to go that far, just over the sea.

  22. Many places overseas either have no allowance or would only give you an allowance for 5yrs (Australia). Seems to be a couple of cliches that I would very much doubt are true but are they purely to draw emotion from the reader. However, well written though. I was never eligible for an allowance and studied for 6yrs full time and worked in my spare time (2 different degrees for what I wanted). Needless to say, my loan is huge but will be paid off in 10yrs. I think real students (those with a plan, not those doing a BA for the fun of it) really do get a raw deal when it comes to studying.

    1. a bit disrespectful for those that spend 3 years of their lives doing a BA.

  23. *there not they

  24. Well done Amy! I hope you did actually send this to him?

  25. Thank you for capturing the thoughts of most PGs in NZ. My uni life has been like yours except my mum did my washing sometimes because she lives in Wellington. When I turned 24 it wasn't yay free money- it was yay I can finally pay my rent, buy food, and have about $10 left over and not work so many hours so I can survive because I'm now receiving $80 more a week then I used to.

  26. Add to this that students undertaking programmes such as the DipClinPsyc are largely inelligible for scholarships - especially as interns - as these scholarships are largely reserved for research-based postgraduate programmes such as Masters and PhDs. This really sums up the situation a lot of us now find ourselves in. Thanks Amy!

  27. was going to write another message in support of what you have written, from another dipclinpsyc student... but i don't really have anything to add. Please forward your letter (and all our supportive comments) to the pm!!.

  28. This deserves to be on the front page of the Herald, As a student studying in auckland I sympathise with you greatly.

  29. just do what all smart kiwis do, drop out move to aussie and live the good life.

  30. Hi Amy...

    I for one understand your plight...and a point.

    For the young folk, such as yourself, do not understand what is happening throughout the world.

    Hell...I only woke up after I heard something on the radio a couple of years ago, that made me question the system we live in.

    First off...your degree is plummeting in value...and will continue to do so.


    Because every Tom, Dick and Harriet can get a degree now.


    Because anybody and anybody can get a student loan and pursue their "dream" career. Trouble is...most of your class mates never achieved the desired results through secondary school to seriously qualify, yet even deserve tertiary education.

    Education is not a "right" is an earned "right".

    You don't get put in jail or fined for earn it.

    The same is true for anything in life...yet most of us go through life thinking a simple lotto ticket is the answer to our prayers...

    Disneyland thinking, and an entitlement mentality.

    Degrees are fast becoming a "dime a dozen".

    For example...say you have a rare coin...there is only 10 in the world...they have extreme value. Then someone out of left field declares they have just inherited 1000 of the same rare coins, that have been locked away for generations.

    What happens to the value of that single rare coin you possess?

    It loses value.

    The same has happened to those looking to earn a degree that everyone else is trying to do. Many young folk looking to find work after their degrees are competing with "dime a dozen" students.

    Harsh...but reality.

    No one cares where you came from or what you did up to's called "so what".

    Harsh...but reality.

    No one cares how much you've borrowed to live, or to finish your degree...because it's your problem. Who else do you think is going to stick up for you? No one care's how much you have to live's called "so what". We've all got our own problems. If you don't like your outcome...or current reality...change it.

    You have a choice.

    Again...harsh, but reality.

    No one needs to give you jack shit for your shampoo, pantyhose or anything...that's called entitlement mentality...and the sooner you lose that...the better person you'll be for it.

    And yes...I hear you say..."but I need those so I fit into the realm of what's expected"...

    That's your don't actually need shampoo or pantyhose.

    So the DHB's ran out of what?

    Amy...nothing is forever...and the way the system is thing is for sure...there is going to be more change over the next 4 years than anyone could ever imagine. An unimaginable ride is about commence that will see many folks bitching and moaning, because they rely on a broken system, and have an entitlement mentality, that doesn't serve anyone, let alone themselves.

    Amy...the system is corrupt, and has been for a very long time. Only those who wish to wake up from their "Matrix" reality will truly see and understand how the world really works.

    It is not made to serve you...but to in-debt you, and control you.

    You are already living their dream.

    Harsh...but reality...

    Will you choose to wake up?


    1. Tim. The reason society should care is that certain professions are needed. If you want to see a doctor, you can. Unless they were a trust fund baby, that person will likely have received a great deal of help from the state. Same with many PG degrees. Unlike BA's, clin psych degrees are not a dime a dozen, there are very few per year. State help means that anyone can do this degree regardless of their parents' financial background but NOT JUST ANYONE WILL GET IN. Without state help, the best students will no longer necessarily be able to complete this degree if they can't afford it so SOCIETY will lose out when further study is contingent on money and not ability.

    2. No...they won't.

      That's BS.

      What's required is a shift in how people think, and what they do.

      Even in today's don't need credit to get a degree. What's wrong with leaving school and finding work for several years and saving the fees before going to study?

      Oh...that's right...we live in an instant gratification society. We want everything now!

      Well...the young do anyways...

      I have children...I live it every goddam

      Look...I would like everything yesterday too...but the truth gotta put money in the bank before you can retrieve it.

      The day you meet someone you have to earn their trust, love honour and just can't go and buy it.

      Here's the thing...

      If you don't have the can't do what you want.

      If you don't have the money, but can borrow gotta be prepared to pay it back.

      If you need a grant, or need to borrow for your education, you are living in someone else's system, and are bound by their rules, and the changes that take place.

      You have no say about is what it is.

      There is always a solution available to those who REALLY want what they want.

      It's called patience, hard work, mindset and a white hot desire...

      I don't believe you have many of these qualities...

      For if you did, you'd probably not need to write this blog...


    3. How do you deal with questions of equality? If one person has the fortune of being raised in a family that can support them throughout all of their education, they are able to enter the workforce early with all the necessary qualifications.

      But if someone isn't so lucky, your solution would require that they save up before taking up study. This certainly produces an unequal result?

      I hope your answer is more substantiated then, "Life's not fair." Because inequality is a bigger issue than this.

      I agree that everyone should pay their fair share. But do you not also agree that we should strive for equal opportunity for all regardless of one's financial background? Especially when it comes to education.

  31. Thanks for sharing Amy :) Did you actually send this to John? Has he attempted a reply?

    1. Please, please send it to John!

  32. This is GREAt!Thank you for voicing our anger and fustration Amy!We are not trying to steal John's precious money but if we can borrow a bit more than the stupid $160 per week it would be very helpful for us. He is just trying to extinguish the large pool of professional Kiwis - and why? because of our "silly?" mistake of wanting to further our tertiary education and help preserve our beautiful country's economy.

    I HOPE our dear John(NOT) gets to read your letter!

  33. This cuts right to the issue of inter generational fairness, or lack of. I understand that in Australia, this issue is legislated for an discussed in the house (of parliament). It would be understandable if all generations were asked to shoulder fiscal burdens, however the John Key has failed to address the huge elephant in the room of universal pensions. In Australia as in many western countries the pension is means tested. I'm sounding like Bernard Hickey but generations x onwards are being totally screwed and need to start to fight back.

  34. This cuts right to the issue of inter generational fairness, or lack of. I understand that in Australia, this issue is legislated for an discussed in the house (of parliament). It would be understandable if all generations were asked to shoulder fiscal burdens, however the John Key has failed to address the huge elephant in the room of universal pensions. In Australia as in many western countries the pension is means tested. I'm sounding like Bernard Hickey but generations x onwards are being totally screwed and need to start to fight back.