I’m in the process of figuring out whether I can apply to Concordia University’s English MA (with creative writing focus) so that I can get Canadian residency upon graduation. I found out two days ago that Quebec is offering residency + a fast track to Canadian citizenship for any student who graduates from a Québécois university. I totally would not mind moving to Montreal if it meant I could live my life with much more freedom and dignity.

I just sent an email to one of the assistants at the English department to find out if I should apply by the April 1st deadline (without fellowship offers) and then possibly defer for a year, or if I should apply in December (with fellowship offers). I also have no idea if they even accept nonfiction candidates, but it seems as if they might not. I don’t have a 35 page fiction portfolio and I doubt I could churn one out in the two weeks I would have to submit my work to professors for letters of recommendation.

If it turns out I should apply right now, then I will be traveling to Berkeley for a couple of days to get transcripts and speak to professors (i.e. beg for letters). I don’t think Concordia would be very happy with two-year-old letters of recommendation.

I love Montreal. I love Canada. I’m tired of sitting around, wasting my life, while some bureaucracy shuffles through the motions of attempting immigration reform and ultimately falls flat on its back.

If I apply in April and somehow manage to figure out financial stuff, I could be out of here by September.

There are many things to think about, such as whether I want to leave the United States and never return, but for now, I’m more concerned with logistics.

Please read this article

Two weeks ago, Newsweek ran this article, by an undocumented student who was forced to drop out of Berkeley after one semester because of financial hardship. I wish there had been more interaction between undocumented students at Cal. While there was probably nothing anyone could have done for her, at least she would have had support from those of us who were in the same situation. I know what it’s like to want something so badly and then to have to let it go. I did spend three and a half years at community college before transferring to Berkeley.

The good thing about this article is it shows how driven undocumented students are. We are not here to steal your wages or destroy your country. We’re here to make a life for ourselves which includes the possibility of going to college, falling in love, getting married, and everything else Americans take for granted, including the right to a driver’s license and federal aid. I’m sure that this girl will eventually return to Berkeley to earn her degree, and that she will succeed.

Every immigration related article or post or youtube video that has enabled comments inevitably receives comments from people who are afraid of immigrants, notwithstanding the fact that most Americans are descended from immigrants. How ironic. Most of these posters know few arguments besides the argument of “invasion” and “ILLEGALS ARE TAKING OUR JOBS!!!!” It’s disheartening to see so many people swayed by fear. I’m definitely going to get some bigot commenting about how I should stop stealing his job and go home, much like I did when I posted something about the DREAM act a couple of months ago.

Then there are those who think that becoming “legal” is as simple as following some sort of quick, painless, but expensive process. Most of these people have no idea how much time I and other “illegal” and undocumented immigrants have spent trying to figure out this supposedly “easy” process. Think before you speak, that’s all I ask. Look through immigration procedure and tell me how easy this process is. Tell me that if you were in my situation, you’d have already figured it all out, or would have gone back to your country. It’s easy to say something like that when you don’t have to make the hard decision.

The value of education

Graduating from Berkeley gave me no special skills. I’ve come to the conclusion that the two years I spent there have not benefited me as considerably as I would have liked to believe earlier. Whatever prestige I receive from its name recognition, the school has provided little advantage, not only in the job market, but in my estimation of the skills I learned while being a student there. The two most important skills I learned at Berkeley were how to think critically and how to avoid ending sentences with prepositional phrases (which I still do, ironically). You might find that surprising, but the combination of those skills has engendered greater benefits than anything else at school.

I’m ambivalent about college degrees in general. What is the point of having an English or Russian or Spanish or Religious Studies degree? Maybe I should be asking, what is the point of a humanities degree? After graduation, I’ve been doing what I love, writing. Did I need a degree to write? I don’t believe so. The only thing I believe is that the friends I made at Berkeley and the mentors I got to work with influenced me in ways I could not have imagined. The degree itself, the idea of going to “Berkeley,” is overrated, but the experience is not. Am I the only one who sees a slight distinction here?

I went to Berkeley for several reasons: I wanted to impress someone, I wanted to go to the “best school,” I wanted to be able to get a good job after graduation, and right before I chose to apply there, I wanted to go there to be an English major. None of those reasons are good reasons to do something, except maybe perhaps the desire to be an English major and to write.

The one reason having a degree from Berkeley (and particularly an English degree) is good is that when I advertise my tutoring services, I can advertise that I am a Berkeley grad. This is my biggest selling point, besides my 800 score on the old-style Verbal portion of the SAT. I don’t think that having a degree from a well-respected institution automatically gives you credit for being a good teacher, and I always try to live up to that standard.

I made good friends, and I think I became a better writer through reading the writing of those friends, and through their feedback. Compared to the writers I met at community college, the writers at Berkeley were far better, which is also ironic because we were all transfer students. In general, I think writers at community colleges will not impress anyone but themselves, with the exceptions being those writers who move on to be serious in their art.

Sadly, there were people at Berkeley who didn’t care about writing. These people took up valuable workshop space and wasted the time of those of us who had tried to do our best in order to improve our art. These people viewed workshops as “easy grades,” no more, no less. Let me put it this way: for them, writing was a form of entertainment, something they could do on occasion, not something they’d work at every day for the rest of their lives, like some of my classmates.

The same goes for people who took part in the English Undergraduate Association on campus, and some people who participated in the Berkeley Poetry and Fiction Reviews. They thought it would be “cool” and would enhance their resume.

Arguments? Opinions?