In 1989, one year after I moved with my family to Jordan, the Jordanian Dinar drifted down and lost 50% of its value (no Wikipedia source!).
In 1997, the Asian financial crises caused the value of the Malaysian Ringgit to drop 40%. This happened after 6 months or so upon my arrival to Malaysia to continue my graduate study.
In 2007, an economic recession hits the US. This time the financial crises took five years to happen after my arrival to the US.
Three financial crises happened in three countries within three different decades. All these financial crises have one thing in common; I. I don’t think I have anything to do with these countries’ economic meltdown. But for some unknown reason I have to experience these countries’ financial crises.
Regardless of any conspiracy theory, that links my existent with any nation’s financial crises, the worst for me is the US recession since I am working part-time as a teaching assistant to support myself and pay the tuition fee.
Since December 2007 I have heard and read thousands of stories about how this recession affected many people in the US.
A Biologist working as a researcher in my university was laid off after 16 years of service. A Pharmacy technician in my university hospital was laid off after 14 years. Both in their late 40s or early 50s, they have kids studying in universities and both are without job for more than a year now. A Civil Engineer with a masters degree decided to go to grad school for a MBA degree after losing hope of finding a job after almost two years. These people are Arab immigrants who I know personally. Of course the stories of unemployed people who I don’t know are in millions.
Until 2007 the two most wanted people were Nurses and Pharmacists. Now, even these two are no longer needed not because there are enough of them but because hospitals and health institutes can’t afford to hire more people.
My uncle, who owns a business in Houston, told me he never experienced such a bad economy in 20 years. That is, since he came to this country.
Usually, Americans don’t pursue a masters or PhD degree in engineering. But now since the economy is very bad they started to enroll in Grad Schools.
A friend of mine, who is a third year PhD student, left the country because he could not find on campus job to pay for the tuition fee.
I live in the university’s Apartments. These apartments are dedicated to graduate students. For the past five years I rarely have seen any American living in these apartments. This semester I already know four Americans moving here and I can see more of them coming. This influx is due to the fact that there more are more American graduate students now and that these apartment are cheaper, although not better, than the off campus ones.
The course I help teaching every semester has usually 400 students. Since it is a computer programming subject it requires using computer labs and it needs at least seven TAs. In 2005, the TAs were from Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, China, and two Americans. This semester, the TAs are from Jordan, Bahamas and five Americans.
A fresh graduate Engineer’s salary used to start from $45,000 a year. This salary goes up to 60K and 70K with experience an amount that lures any one away from grad schools. But now since this dream salary is no longer reachable many decided to go back to school by enrolling in grad schools.
This semester the department assigned me half the task I used to do which means I will get half the salary. This policy came because of the increasing number of graduate students so they decided to give part-time jobs for more students. In addition, universities are trying to tighten the belt as much as they could because of the funds cut. Since the full salary I used to get was barely enough I had to look for on campus job and believe me it wasn’t easy to find one. I was competing with 30,000 other students who many of them have at least unemployed parent. I was told by a lab director on campus that he received 100 job applicants for one position. The job was lab assistant and it requires a graduate student. Luckily, I found a job at the campus dinning services. My job title is customer service attendant. Although the job title sounds fancy but in reality it means washing dishes, mopping floor, serving food, etc. It is not as good as teaching but at this time of economic difficulty I have to say Alhamdulilah always.
So now I provide food for thought to my students, as well as the stomach.