27 September, 2010

Figuring out the future so soon?

Stu & I moved to Sweden to be full-time grad students about 14 months ago now. We came from the US with shiny student visas (and in my case, a spouse visa since I hadn't heard about school yet.) We knew even though our programs were two years long, Migrationsverket (the immigration board) would want to check up on us after a year to make sure we were passing and still had some money to live off. Since his visa was set to expire September 1, Stu recently sent his renewal forms in for what I think of as "Stockholm, Year II." He just got his approval today, meaning he can head to Migrationsverket office for a new picture in his passport, and should have no problems traveling to London when we take my dad there next week.

But we were surprised when reading the forms...apparently, they only approved Stu to stay in Sweden until June 2011. We had been going on the assumption that we would have a full two years here, and though we would graduate in June, we would have the summer to finalize plans our next phase, post-grad school. We even signed our lease at our apartment to end on August 31, 2011.

That may not seem like a huge time difference, but we have no idea where we will be heading as of June 2011! The timeline in my mind was to start looking at the job market next May or so, and we would both basically apply for anything and everything that we saw in Stockholm, several large UK cities, and the major cities in the US. In an ideal world, we would get the summer to travel again, knowing exactly what city we would live in by July and then could leisurely move to new digs (whether in Stockholm or abroad) in August, starting fantastic and well-paying jobs in September. But the economy hasn't exactly bounced back as high as one would have hoped, so I know the job hunt could be challenging.

In fact, though, we hope to get jobs here in Stockholm, to take advantage of the connections and networking our education has fostered, to enjoy living in this country while making a decent living wage, maybe take advantage of some of the amazing parental benefits while we were at it, and pay back into the tax system that has so generously supported us for what will be 22 months.

But leaving Sweden in June is too soon! We have to give our landlady 3 months notice that we will be leaving (so that's the beginning of April.)  I foresee April being the *busiest* 30-day stretch for us school-wise in nearly 2 years, without even thinking about applying to jobs, applying for new visas, moving across more large bodies of water, etc.

I think it's worth noting how dysfunctional we find aspects of the Swedish education system when it comes to educating foreigners. Sweden has always (and will continue until next year) made education free to everyone, whatever nationality. One would think that if the government is investing millions into human capital every year, they would want to make it as easy as possible to reap the benefits of their investments! To educate someone from outside the EU, bestowing masters or even PhD degrees, and then giving them NO time to find suitable work in this country before they are legally required to leave just doesn't make sense. One of the reasons given that the country elected to institute tuition starting next year is because "people come for the free education and then leave." But in reality, the government gives them no choice.

It's going to be winter here sooner than I'd like to admit, so maybe if I were writing this blog post 2 months from now, the tone would be different. As in "get me the hell out of here!" Working in San Diego *would* be pretty great, come to think of it. But the point is that it is too soon to think about it!  Ugg, how frustrating.


  1. That is too bad. And weird. Can you renegotiate with them somehow? If one of you gets a job, at least then the other can get the spouse visa. And you don't have to go the minute the visa expires, do you? Can't you stay for a few months as tourists?

  2. Wow! I can't believe you have been over there for 14 months already. It doesn't seem that long. I know that it is stressful to feel that pressure to figure out your plans, so good luck!

  3. Thanks ladies!

    I just had some strange assumption that we had 3 months after graduating to find work. The US gives you a year! I doubt we could negotiate any kind of extension unless we have job in hand, and then the point is moot. We'd just get a work visa! And yes, if one of us gets a job, we're fine. Anchor baby style.

    And I know its 7 or 8 months until we have to figure things out more concretely, but it feels like those months will be busy with finishing up school for both of us. Hell, how'd 14 months pass me by so quickly!