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.