On Poetry and Culture Shock

Getting paid to be a student

This school year that I have passed at Cornell has been possible because I have received a fellowship, a salary, for the simple fact of being here. Being paid to be a student is partly great and partly really bad. I don't know if it is the same everywhere, but I was cultureshocked when knew that in this country, PhD students get paid. At last I could see come true my dream of being a professional student. Isn't that cool?

Well, not really. Because students gets paid in exchange of being "teaching assistants". That is, for teaching. So: undergrads pay ridiculous amounts of money to get to University. Here they are taught by people who are juggling doing courses, teaching courses, and their own research (which is the reason they went to grad school in the first place). And the PhD students are paid just about enough money to survive, to do what should be the professors' job.

I'm not part of that system because I'm here on an exchange program. Let's see. The students who are here to learn, not for research (undergrads, vets, architects, law students) came to Cornell because it is good and prestigious and they are willing to pay more than if they went to ABC State University. But I am one of the reasons why Cornell is expensive: those students are paying MY salary. As much as it benefits me, I don't think it's fair.

It would be different in a public education system: my fellowship would be paid by taxes, and at the same time, I would teach for little pay the kids of the people that pay taxes, not the kids of the people who can afford to pay a private education. A few years after that, when I get my PhD, I can get jobs with a much better pay, which means I have to start paying taxes. Hey, this sounds like something. Would it be so hard to establish in Spain a system for funding researchers that was halfway between the American and the Spanish ones?

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