Financial hole and lack of freedom: what did America displease the immigrant from Ukraine
32-year-old Business Analyst EPAM Ivan Vysotsky has lived in the United States for 12 years. In the States, he received an education, started a family, changed several jobs and bought a house. However, all this did not deter him from wanting to return home - Ivan moved back to his native Lviv. He told the publication DOU.UA, what is the advantage of moving to Ukraine and why, in fact, life in the United States is not suitable for everyone.
Next - from the first person.
Education in the USA
My history in the USA began in 2005. Then I studied at the Faculty of International Relations at the National University. I. Franko in Lviv and wanted to become a diplomat. After the second year, my friend and I used the Work and Travel program, thanks to which it is quite easy to get work experience and try to live in the USA for several months. During their stay in the States, both realized that the country is really cool, and you can move there. So we started looking for options. By the way, from the first year I wanted to try to move somewhere, and after Work and Travel I realized that I could do it, so I definitely should try.
For students, studying in the USA was a smart relocation option. To get advice and at the end of the student visa, we turned to a lawyer. In parallel with this, we searched online resources for information about American colleges. As you know, education in the United States is paid. Therefore, when choosing an educational institution, I, among other things, focused on cost. I stopped at one of the colleges in the state of New Jersey, where education, depending on the number of subjects chosen, cost from $ 5 to $ 7 thousand for six months, or up to $ 15 thousand a year.
So that after two years at a Ukrainian university not to go to the United States again for the first year, you can pass certification and confirm your knowledge. But this procedure is rather complicated, so I decided to become a freshman.
The educational system in the United States is different from ours. First of all, the opportunity to work. American universities realize that there is a large percentage of students who have to pay for their own tuition. Therefore, there is a cool system of online courses. You are physically obliged to spend a certain number of hours weekly in pairs, but there is still the opportunity to attend a certain percentage of the classes on the Internet. Moreover, online platforms are confidently used by both young teachers and senior professors. Your presence on the course is recorded - everything is the same as during offline training.
First of all, I needed a job to pay for my education. At first I worked in restaurants and cafes, in a company that was engaged in the transportation of cars, and as a result in a logistics company, where I grew professionally and from which I then quit to return to Ukraine. At first, my earnings were no more than $ 400 per week. The car haulage company already had $ 500 in revenue. In a logistics firm, where I worked for a total of 7 years, the salary was initially $ 500- $ 550 per week, and before leaving, it was about $ 1 per week.
Under the terms of a student visa and college regulations, I could not work more than 20 hours a week. But I was in dire need of funds, I had a good relationship with a machine company, and I asked there to write a letter to my college. In general, this is a standard procedure for the United States: the employer writes that the student is a class specialist who could work more, and the college, if all is well, replies that it does not mind the additional burden on its student. With this permission, I was able to work up to 30 hours a week, and I had enough money to rent a hostel, pay for my education and cover my own expenses.
I went to college for three years and received a degree in Business and Administration. After that, it was necessary to rise to the next educational level and enter a local university, where training cost $ 50- $ 60 thousand per year. I did not have such funds, and I could not earn them, so I decided to postpone the question of the university. In general, higher education in the United States is structured in such a way that the knowledge from college is enough to get a good job and build a career.
House in the "village" for $ 380- $ 500 thousand
While studying in New Jersey, I met my future wife. She is also from Lviv, lived in the USA with her parents and received a medical education there. For some time we rented a house, and when two sons were born and grew up (the eldest is now 10 years old, the youngest is 6), we thought about our own.
We had an average income by American standards, about $ 140 thousand a year, and both worked: I was in a logistics company, which I already mentioned, my wife was a paramedic, and later got the position of a clinical analyst. Houses in the town of East Brunswick, New Jersey, where we decided to settle down, cost about $ 380- $ 500 thousand. For understanding: East Brunswick is called a village even in Wikipedia, at the time of 2010 there were less than 50 thousand people. Compared to Ukraine, the cost of the house was sky-high.
Of course, we did not have the full amount, so we, as almost all US residents do, took out a loan for housing. According to its terms, the first installment was paid 10% of the value of the house, and the rest had to be paid in 2,9 or 3% per annum for 25 years. The cost was this because the house was in a good area and we knew that children would go to schools with a good rating and would be able to acquire relevant knowledge. In addition, an additional $ 11 thousand in housing tax had to be paid annually. After we already moved to Ukraine, there was a period when we continued to pay off the loan in the United States. Subsequently, the house, fortunately, was sold.
So you constantly need to pay something, for example, insurance, without which there is nowhere, or the same loans, without which it is impossible to buy your own home, people in the United States literally do not belong to themselves. As a rule, they cannot afford to simply free themselves to search for something new for a month or two. Any action is limited by financial obligations. In fact, from adulthood to death, you live in a complete absence of a sense of freedom. And for me this is unacceptable.
One of the largest expenditures in the United States is health insurance. Its cost in New Jersey is approximately $ 700- $ 800 per month for each of the four family members. Considering that my company was making a $ 150 discount for each, then the insurance alone cost us $ 2,2- $ 2,6 thousand a month.
True, before our total income reached the average level, we could not afford to pay the full cost of insurance for ourselves and for children, even taking into account the discount from the company. For such cases, a special social program operates in the United States, which provides for the payment of child insurance in the amount of not $ 700- $ 800 monthly, but only $ 150- $ 200. That is, before reaching the average level and taking into account the discount from the company for insurance of the whole family, we spent $ 1,4- $ 1,7 thousand per month.
In general, everyone knows that the insurance system in the USA is very expensive, but you can't even imagine how decisive this issue can be in the context of work. For example, I personally know stories when people chose not the company with a large salary or an interesting project, but the one that was ready to cover most of the insurance payments.
In New Jersey, as in most states, health insurance is compulsory. If you do not purchase it, then at the end of the year you will have to pay a fine of 2,5% of the family's income. In our case, if anything, it would be about $ 3,5 thousand. Despite the high cost, in my opinion, the American insurance system is quite effective. By investing heavily, you receive high-quality medical services and do not pay for, for example, surgical interventions, routine vaccinations for children or natural childbirth without complications.
As for the fines, it’s strange, but besides the fact that the state itself is interested in detecting violations and fining you, the neighbors seem to be interested in this. On the one hand, this can be considered a conscious civil position. On the other hand, the situation sometimes reaches the point of absurdity. For example, our neighbor informed the authorities that we do not pay a mandatory tax on an animal. I had to pay a fine, albeit a symbolic one. Later, for the fact that a cat lives in the house, my wife and I paid $ 150-200 tax annually.
Considering the finances of a bachelor's life and the life of a married man with children in the United States, there are two big differences. Of course, it is the same in Ukraine, but nevertheless in our country people rarely move to another area so that the child can go to a normal kindergarten or school. In the USA, this is, one might say, the norm.
When the question of choosing a school for the eldest son arose in New Jersey, my wife and I discovered that we live in a place where there are simply no normal government institutions. Students in American schools annually take a nationwide exam: depending on how successful it was, institutions receive a score on a ten-point scale. The better the students pass the exam, the higher the school's rating. So, in the area where we lived then, schools had 3 points out of 10. Therefore, we were forced to move. In the meantime, they were planning this and looking for a normal public school for their son, they sent him to a private one for $ 600 a month.
What has always amazed me in American schools, public and private, is the food system. In the canteens, they only sell snacks and fast food. There is nothing homemade and healthy.
Also a bit strange, too strong, in my opinion, is the school security system. Since there have been terrorist attacks in schools in the United States, parents are not allowed to enter the territory of educational institutions: the teacher meets the younger children, and the elders walk on their own. Also, students do not stay face-to-face with teachers: in order to talk about, for example, individual homework, the teacher must call one of his colleagues. However, both the first and the second have reasons, therefore, perhaps, it is better this way than, God forbid, some problems.
When we returned to Ukraine and started comparing school education, we realized that it was too voluminous and fast at home. Already in Lviv, the eldest son said more than once that in the USA there was not such a big load and there were not so many homework assignments, so there was time to deal with what you do not understand.
In the United States, along with the payment of a loan for housing, with the provision of sons (the elder later transferred to a public free school, and the junior's kindergarten cost about $ 1,5 thousand a month), payment of utilities, food and insurance, we spent about $ 7 a month, 5 thousand. This included a home loan and property tax ($ 2), kindergarten / school ($ 800), medical insurance and car insurance ($ 1), food ($ 400) and other expenses, such as utilities ( $ 1- $ 100), toll roads and gasoline ($ 1). In addition, an additional $ 200 in housing tax had to be paid annually. And these expenses were almost always equal to our joint income with my wife. But the decision to return to Ukraine affected more than just the financial issue.
When I moved to New Jersey at 18, I clearly understood that I would get an education, gain experience and go home. Then you get married, start earning good money, take out a loan for 25 years for housing and somehow don’t perceive the country as completely foreign. In the United States, your children are born, who have American citizenship and 99% of the time they speak English, and they know only certain phrases in Ukrainian. But in 12 years I have never gotten used to the United States. All the same, it is not like at home, where relatives and friends are nearby.
I intended to return for several years, but I made the final decision in 2018. At that time, he already held the position of Product Owner in the IT department of a logistics company, so he began looking for work in Ukraine in the IT sector. Then it was trite: I received recommendations from friends, found a position for Business Analyst in the office in Lviv, and hit the road. Despite the fact that I really wanted to return home, there were still fears. Therefore, for the first few months I arrived alone, without a family. And although I am a local, EPAM has rules for relocation, where everyone who moves is given a certain amount of funds, which, in my case, would be enough to cover the rent of an apartment for the whole family in the center of Lviv for three months.
From a financial point of view, the difference is that in the United States, where my wife and I, let me remind you, had an average earnings, in the best month we managed to postpone 5-10% of our salaries. In Ukraine, where there is no need to pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars in housing loans and several thousand dollars a month for insurance, we postpone an average of 30-50% of our salaries.
At home there is a free kindergarten and a free school with normal meals. In Ukraine, I also have health insurance, but I pay 3 thousand hryvnia for it, or just over $ 100. And not monthly, but once a quarter. At the same time, I cannot say that I receive poor quality medical services. So, Ukrainian insurance does not cover, for example, operations. But it covers basic ongoing needs like vaccinations, consultations with a therapist and other doctors.
In addition, in Lviv, I develop more professionally. If in the USA I worked in a food company that was previously interested in developing its product, then in two years in Ukraine I already had three projects. I know that someone, on the contrary, criticizes service companies, but, in my opinion, they are more interested in the development of their specialists than product companies. At least the company I worked for. Here, in fact, everything is simple: the higher the qualifications of the employee, the more profitable it will be to offer his knowledge to the next customer. And both sides benefit from this.
In general, any experience is, of course, subjective. I am sure there are a lot of people who are not afraid of constant financial dependence and remoteness from home, and they live absolutely comfortably in the USA. But my monologue is more about the fact that there are opportunities for development at home. The main thing is that there is a desire to develop.
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