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Solve my life changing decision Family vs Ambition

  1. Jun 10, 2009 #1
    Here's the short version:
    Live in New Zealand, been offered an excellent PhD position in the UK. Family won't allow me to leave. I don't want to throw away this opportunity.

    Long version:
    My biggest ambition was to get a PhD (physics) from a good university. After 5 years of hard work I've finally earned it. I live at home with my parents and one brother. My dad is 65 and just manages to keep his business going to support us. I worked jobs a fair bit these last few years to help out and made a decent contribution. My mum has a critical lung sickness and she hasn't got long to live (few years maybe less). My brother is in 2nd year uni never worked and is on a career path that isn't looking promising. After going through many university interview processes, spending money on applications, and looking towards a big dream I finally make a decision to accept a position, and only now does my dad (in particular) make it firmly clear that he's unhappy if I leave to the UK because:
    "It's too Far".
    "Too expensive for me to come back".
    "Hard for him to support the family".
    "Can't manage the business without the work I do".
    "Afraid if I leave, I may never come back".
    The stresses they have are high as it is, and he's afraid if I leave the stress on my mum could be the last thing she feels...
    They are extremely attached to me but the problem is I can't live my life without going and being independent. They want me to do my PhD here but I really don't like the options/topics and I'm losing out on a whole other life.

    How do I deal with this...:frown:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 10, 2009 #2
    if i am you, i must leave.

    "Too expensive for me to come back".

    what is that ? moneywise ? how you go ?
  4. Jun 10, 2009 #3
    You are an an adult now, it's time for YOU to make your decisions. Have fun in England!
  5. Jun 10, 2009 #4


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    Wow, that's definitely a problem you need to work out yourself, not ask strangers on the internet. Are there no good universities in your country with programs in your field??
  6. Jun 10, 2009 #5
    Usually, governent give money go ENgland they must give money go Newzeland
  7. Jun 10, 2009 #6


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    That's tough. Only you can really make the decision because everyone gives these things different priorities. I'll just give my take on things and you can take from it what you will

    First, you've got a university degree and are an adult. It's my belief that it's unreasonable for your parents to expect you to support them. Assuming your position in the UK is funded... you should be able to take care of yourself then (if you'll be relying on parental support while in the UK that's another can of worms). You probably feel like you owe your parents for the work they put in raising you, but - and not to sound like cold blooded here- you don't. Don't feel like because they put 18 or 22 years into raising you, you have to put the next however many years helping them while putting your own life on hold. That's not to say you should just dump them and never look back, but keep things in perspective.

    You should talk to your mom about how she feels about you leaving. It sounds like your dad is under a lot of stress, and may not be accurately describing how she feels. I don't want to try to predict how your mom feels, but I would be surprised if she's against it for the reasons you convey in your post. The only way to learn how she really feels about this is to talk to her about it.

    With that said, you can also consider other options. Have you looked into deferring the start of your Phd for a year? If you think that will help, it's worth inquiring about
  8. Jun 10, 2009 #7
    if i am you i never defer. just go, it good for you and everyone. you can explain later to your parent. please stop making it longer. less or more money is not problem to you right ?
    money can be earn by work (partime, fulltime, freelance, realtor etc) but later is immporisble!
  9. Jun 10, 2009 #8
    Indeed it's a tough decision not to be made by bystanders on the internet.

    There are a few elements not mentioned yet:

    There are many PhD positions at many places, if not there this year, then perhaps here next year.

    There is only one mom.

    Edit: what would any decision mean on your "regret list about done's-and-did-not's" in, say, 30 years.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2009
  10. Jun 10, 2009 #9


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    I only see his parents using emotions and the situation as a method of control. I'm against that.

    You should make your own decision without thinking about what your father thinks. Just sit back and decide what you think is best for you... also in the long run like Andre pointed out.

    Note: You mention your brother isn't in a promising field, but isn't a Ph.D in Physics no better?
  11. Jun 10, 2009 #10
    Hmm...I agree that you shouldn't be asking strangers on the Internet about an important decision like this. However, I do have a few things in mind that you need to consider. One thing though: I'm confused about whether you got accepted into graduate school in order to earn your PhD, or whether you already have a PhD and are looking for work as a physicist. Since you talked about spending money on applications, I'm assuming the former.

    1.) Make sure you'll get funding. Most physics graduate programs cover your tuition costs and support you through a TA or RA. It's not much, but you can actually live pretty comfortably. There are a few people in my department who support a wife and kid on their teaching or research support. Not that I recommend this, but my point is that if you can get funding, you won't exactly be living in poverty. Make absolutely certain that the programs you apply for provide funding in some form or another, because it would be a bad idea all around to expect your parents to pay for your PhD.

    2.) Assess your own physics aptitude. Seeing as how money is a big deal for you, you want to make sure you have what it takes to complete a physics PhD. I know many students in my department who failed their PhD qualifier and had to settle for an MS degree (and one who just failed all of her classes and got kicked out). I don't know how an MSc is regarded in the UK, but in America I've seen that an MS in physics is basically worthless. If you can make it through grad school and get a PhD, you'll almost definitely find a stable job. But make sure you've got what it takes to actually do this.

    3.) You said you've worked jobs to contribute to your familiy, so I assume you have no problem with the idea of financially supporting your parents. Your absence will remove this contribution in the short term (though it also means your dad doesn't have to support you either). Consider, however, that a PhD in physics opens up some lucrative employment opportunities, including a greater opportunity to support your family. I'm not saying you should base your decision on this, but it's something to consider. With a brother who doesn't seem to be poised for a stable career, it looks like somebody has got to step up here. Despite the jokes that get thrown around on this forum, a PhD in physics is very employable. It's not exactly the same as health care, but I don't know of that many unemployed PhD physicists.

    Whatever you decide, make sure you're well-informed
  12. Jun 10, 2009 #11
    Assuming the PhD position offered to you includes full support for yourself and your tuition I would say its time for you to leave the nest and your brother to step up and take on some responsibility. If I was a parent, I think I would want my children to do everything they could to live their dreams and not let me hold them back, even if I'm dieing.

    Depending on how well your TA/RA position pays you may even have enough to send home every month.
  13. Jun 10, 2009 #12
    Your parents have their life, you have your life. I am always sad to see parents who "love" their children so much that they squelch the opportunities and potential for happiness in their children just because they don't want their child to leave home. No offense, but I think that's a selfish and irresponsible perspective for a parent, especially considering that parents are "on the way out" while their children are "on the way in," so decisions like this will influence their childrens lives long after they (the parents) have passed away. I certainly wouldn't die happily knowing that my own selfishness had resulted in my children being unable to follow their dreams.
  14. Jun 10, 2009 #13
    I would also say the same thing. It depends on your relationship with your family and what you prioritize.
  15. Jun 10, 2009 #14
    Another thought here. I'm not going to make any judgment on the morality of parents holding on to their children to their deteriment. However, from a purely practical standpoint, it might make sense to do the PhD. As I said earlier, assuming you come back after you're done, your dad is essentially making a short term (~ 5 years) tradeoff in exchange for a lot more earning potential on your part. Furthermore, if you don't go for a PhD right now, it'll be a lot harder to get into grad school later. Not to sound morbid, but humans only live so long, and pending any unfortunate circumstance you're going to outlive yours. Thus, staying with your parents for another 15 to 20 years will cost you quite a bit in terms of lifetime earning potential. In effect, your job prospects will go way down, unless your goal is to take over the family business. Your dad is 65 right now, so by the time you get back he'll be 71. Assuming he can manage five years without you, at that age he might want to cut back or retire altogether. Wouldn't it be great to have a well-to-do son at that time? Getting your PhD seems to make sense from a practical standpoint.

    Anyway, don't take me too seriously, since I'm hardly in a position to make an accurate assessment of your situation.
  16. Jun 10, 2009 #15
    The first two points about being far and expensive to come back really don't matter. What does matter is the fact that your family (based on your post) supported you to get a college education. Now that they are saying they need help, you want to turn your back on them and get your PhD for selfish reasons. The manly thing to do here is step up and help your father support your sick mother.
  17. Jun 10, 2009 #16
    I'm a jerk, but your thoughtless my friend.
  18. Jun 10, 2009 #17


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    In my opinion, it would be pretty foolish to come to study in the UK without any funding, since it would cost around £12000 a year tuition, with living costs on top!

    An MSc is regarded as a degree in its own right: it is neither an "en route" degree, or a consolation prize, as I gather is the case in the US.

    Here are some counters to the points you bring up:
    Well, that's surely a relative statement!
    If you've landed a usual studentship, then I reckon you could afford to fly home once, twice or even thrice a year (you can always take on teaching as a money booster).

    While I can see the validity in the first point, the second isn't valid: he should employ someone to do the work that you seemingly do!
    Whatever's going on at home, this isn't an excuse.

    A PhD in the UK doesn't take 5/6 years: it's about 3.5-4 years.
  19. Jun 10, 2009 #18
    I'm not asking for the 'strangers on the internet' to tell me what to do, but more confirm that my own decision of taking this opportunity is not selfish. I couldn't agree more with the comments made in this thread, and yes the PhD position is fully funded (I looked carefully into this) so I can certainly take care of myself.

    I think their reasoning comes from the fact that for generations our family have never studied abroad and in most cases never studied a tertiary education (they managed small businesses that earned them enough), and for many years every member would help the business. I am the first to do something different and there are a lot of people I have to convince that my decision is for my own good (and also theirs in the long-run).
  20. Jun 10, 2009 #19


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    I guess you can see it from their point of view, but the difference between when previous generations were growing up and nowadays is that, comparatively, the UK and NZ really aren't that far away. You can get from one to the other in less than a day, and can probably get a ticket for around £600/700 if you shop around well.
  21. Jun 10, 2009 #20
    From my perspective you would be right to say than an American MS in physics is a consolation prize. I read about a lot of people saying that the physics MS is employable, but I don't actually know anyone who got a job with a physics MS. There are a few people in my department who apply to the astrophysics MS program (I guess you can run planetarium shows or something), but everyone I know who got a physics MS did so because they failed the PhD qualifier.

    I've heard, however, that BSc degrees in Europe are more intense, and that MSc graduate students spend less time on coursework, thus making the MSc more valuable than an MS. Is this true?

    Quite right, thanks for correcting!
  22. Jun 10, 2009 #21


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    Well the thing is how many people attend a PHD granting university just to try to complete their masters? The MS is considered a consolation prize because it is indeed what people get when they fail to complete their PhD a lot of the time. You spend all that time just to fail at the end doesn't really mean you should walk away empty handed :rofl:.

    There are many universities that only offer a masters degree, such as mine. Everyone I know who graduated with their MS is employed in the field.
  23. Jun 10, 2009 #22


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  24. Jun 10, 2009 #23
    Well that's the part that confuses me. Mine is a combined physics and astronomy department (in fact I'm in an overlap area). I know many people who come in as astrophysics MS students, but I know of no one who comes in with the intent of doing an MS in physics. My department is by no means lax when it comes to research. In fact, we have one of the best condensed matter departments in the nation, so you'd think that the people who fail out with CMP masters degrees would still find employment.

    Your department must have some strength which makes the MS graduates more attractive to potential employers. I'd be curious to know what it is.
  25. Jun 10, 2009 #24


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    One thing for sure. They sould know your true feeling about the situation.

    If it were me, I would print out this thread and show it to them. Then take the opportunity.
  26. Jun 10, 2009 #25


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    As others have stated, nobody here can give you an answer to this question. I can only speak for myself and how I'd have handled a similar situation.

    Me: Not far enough.

    Me: Who says I'm coming back or won't be able to pay my own way when I do?

    Me: It'll be easier with one less mouth to feed at home.

    Me: Hire someone to do it then. It's you're business, not mine.

    Me: Keep playing these guilt trip games, and you might be right.

    That your mom is ill does complicate things, because you really might want to be close to her. On the other hand, delaying living your own life for the sake of the dying is often a choice people regret later.

    As others have pointed out, you're an adult and it's your life. You have to choose what's right for you, not what's right for us, or your parents, or your siblings, or your best friend, or the kid down the street. The only case where I think another person needs to be considered in making decisions is for married couples, because both need to be willing to either move together or live apart.
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