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Cichlidae
Aug 12, 2005

ME LOVE
MAKE RED LIGHT


Wretched Harp

The boring stuff first: I'm 33, making $110k/year as a civil engineer in the US. I've got a BS in civil engineering and BAs in French and German. My wife's 34, unemployed with a master in environmental science and management. More detailed financial information is at the bottom of the post.

I graduated in 2008 and started working immediately, and we've had a continuous improvement in quality of life since, but I've always wanted to continue my education and this field is looking pretty hopeless with the way the US treats its infrastructure. My primary goal is to get a master's degree and move to the EU. My wife's is to get a job and also move to the EU. We've both lived and studied in France before. I speak French fluently, and she knows enough to get by. I also had an internship there. In addition, I've got some moderate chronic health issues that cause me to spend ~$3000/year, not including the premium.

The French government recently adopted a program to attract American engineers and scientists, and they approached us to apply to grad school there. We found grad programs in Nantes taught in English (mine in structural engineering, 2 years, hers in bioprocess engineering, 1 year) and applied. I just found out that I've been accepted with a 3000 euro scholarship. She has been pre-admitted, and is awaiting the final word. We've also applied for a grant that covers the flight over, insurance, and gives a thousand-euro stipend each month. I am unlikely to get it since it's aimed mainly at environmental scientists. She has a strong case for getting it, but I am not going to count on it. I need to confirm my acceptance and pay the remaining 9000 euro tuition by the end of May. I can put down a deposit and I'd just lose ~$2000 if I decide to back out. The semester begins in early September so we'd move in late August. We live in an apartment and the lease expires in October.

All the values below are in USD. Where they would be in euro (tuition), I've converted at the rate of 1.25:1 for assets and 1.3:1 for debts. There are still unknowns - I don't know if I'll be charged some kind of tax on transferring money there, I don't have a good grasp on additional education expenses (they were minor last time I was there), and of course we don't know whether we'll be able to get jobs afterwards. I'm told the job market for engineers, even non-EU citizens, is good in France and her program includes an internship - no word on whether it's paid, but her tuition is said to include the internship so consider it part of that line item.

Now for the juicy stuff!

quote:

Assets:
Bank accounts: $69k in checking and savings, $7.5k in a bank account in France, $16k in a CD that's nearing maturity, $3k in bonds that are nearing maturity.
Additional savings between now and late August: I can save about $11k between now and then, plus cash in another $3k in vacation hours.
Cars: 2010 Honda Fit, 2005 Nissan Altima (salvage), probably could sell them for $5k.
Other assorted sales between now and then: $500 for furniture and appliances via Craigslist or similar.
TOTAL assets by September: $120k

Debts:
Finishing out the lease, worst case, will be $3000.
No other debt.

Expenses for 2 years of study:

One-time:
Airfare: $2k
Shipping: $3k
Purchases for trip (adapters, minor appliances, clothing): $1k
Potential rent deposit in France: $900

Yearly:
Tuition: $21,450
Insurance: $500

Monthly:
Rent: $900
Transportation: $100
Utilities / internet / phone: $150
Storage unit in the US: $50
Medical: $50
Other: $100

Weekly:
Food @ $4/meal/person: $168
Other: $50

That comes out to just over $109k for the two years.

Retirement savings:
~$180k in a combination of 457, 401(k), and Roth. I wouldn't be touching these unless absolutely necessary.

So in theory, I can make this work, and I'm being mildly pessimistic by assuming no further scholarships or work during study. I was an excellent student and made more money in scholarships and grants than I spent on school. I'm open to taking out student loans if needed. And yes, there's an enormous opportunity cost, and I would likely be making a lot less money long-term, but I am willing to take that hit to get over there and get my master. Is this a solid plan, or am I setting myself up for trouble?

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John Smith
Feb 26, 2015
lmao if u don't have me on ignore


Before I clicked on your post, I immediately thought of Germany merely from the thread title. Why not Germany instead of France? For the obvious reasons. You don't have to be influenced by their invitation, and should consider all your options thoroughly.

Veskit
Mar 2, 2005




This was a lot of how you can do it but I have no idea why you want to

KYOON GRIFFEY JR
Apr 12, 2010



Veskit posted:

This was a lot of how you can do it but I have no idea why you want to

yeah this

Keep in mind that unless you plan to stay in the EU fairly permanently your degree may not be as highly valued in the US. Make sure you get a clean handle on where you want to be and how employers are going to view your degree.

France is much better than Germany so you are making the right move there, but have you been to Brittany in general and Nantes in particular? I would be absolutely sure you're down with the Bretons and 2nd tier Frenchish cities before signing up to move there for two years.

Cichlidae
Aug 12, 2005

ME LOVE
MAKE RED LIGHT


Wretched Harp

First off, why not Germany? I speak French much better, have worked and studied there before, and frankly I find the German attitudes towards nuclear power and bioprocess GMOs to be backwards, and since those are the fields we'd be working in, it's pretty important to me to go somewhere that's not ideologically opposed to the stuff we're trying to do. The cultural attitudes there aren't so much my thing, either. I will admit that Germany has MUCH better coffee, though, and engineers have more work there.

I do intend to live in the EU permanently - I don't have any interest in returning to the US, but of course I can fall back to working here and my former salary if I decide I don't like things there.

I don't know how the tiers of French cities go, but our schools are both in the suburbs north of Nantes, and we've previously lived in Compiegne, Orleans, and a few little rural towns.

Veskit
Mar 2, 2005




Wouldn't it be easier to go to grad school here and then emigrate to the country you want to live in? I'm still not seeing the reasoning of going to grad school. I'm not saying there aren't a lot but again you're making it sound like you want to because of money and... the chance to live overseas? Is that even the reason?

Cichlidae
Aug 12, 2005

ME LOVE
MAKE RED LIGHT


Wretched Harp

I guess I focused too much on the details and not enough on the motivation in the OP. There are an awful lot of different factors coming together and I'm not the best at putting these things into coherent paragraphs.

It's been a lifelong goal of my wife's and mine to move back to France for good. We have political and social reasons for wanting to do so. We also have career reasons, as the US is not interested in investing in its own infrastructure and the environmental field is in dire straits. This is an endemic problem, not a recent change. My current engineering degree and experience are not valuable outside the US because civil engineering (and especially my sub-field) are incredibly provincial. But that's ok, because I hate my job anyway and don't want to keep doing it. To enter another field in another country, more education is required. As an example, all of the asphalt, concrete, and steel design I've learned is based on US code, using imperial units, and again, very provincial. I've always wanted to go to grad school, and it eats at me that I haven't. My wife's degree isn't particularly useful and she wants something that's more focused on application than regulation. This wouldn't even have been a possibility previously, but the French government instituted a program to help people like us move, study, and work there. My father-in-law already has a house in France and has EU citizenship.

My rationale for making the thread was more "am I missing something critical?" and less "is this an ideal direction to take my life?" I do appreciate the advice, and I am poring over my other options (like straight-up applying for jobs overseas), but ultimately this is based more on personal goals than because I'm looking for a better job.

KYOON GRIFFEY JR
Apr 12, 2010



You're not really including any sort of travel costs to return to the US to see friends and family. You may actively plan not to return, which is fine. You also don't seem to have much of a transport/vacation/fun stuff budget. As currently stands you are planning in your budget to park your rear end in Nantes for two years and never leave. I'm not sure how realistic you find this; I don't think it's very realistic at all.

Living expenses seem light to me. How do your estimates compare to current expenses especially in discretionary categories? You are planning to spend $2,222 a month all-in. Does this seem realistic to you? I don't know your current habits but if you're planning to scale back your lifestyle from spending $4,000/mo to $2,222/mo that is going to be a big reach. If you're planning to scale back from $2,500 to $2,222 a month, that's probably realistic.

Cichlidae
Aug 12, 2005

ME LOVE
MAKE RED LIGHT


Wretched Harp

Alright, thank you for the advice. My current lifestyle, including rent, is something like $4,000 per month, yeah. We'd have to go back to broke college student levels of living. And you're right, there's no guarantee that we'd find it to be an improvement over what we're doing now. She got her acceptance letter today, but we're going to politely decline for financial reasons (unless you think there's a more diplomatic way to do it). We can apply again next year, and have more time to plan and save in the meantime. I will also be actively looking for entry- and mid-level jobs that don't require too much experience - prospects aren't fantastic, but at least I'd have a better outlook with a solid income to back things up.

I've also advised my wife to check around the forums for more advice on getting her resume checked and looking for jobs. If you have any resources to share, I'd appreciate it.

KYOON GRIFFEY JR
Apr 12, 2010



within this very forum there is a thread on resumes, a thread on negotiating offers, and a thread on job openings

JIZZ DENOUEMENT
Oct 3, 2012

STRIKE!


I second the concerns other people have listed.

However if you are 100% certain you want to move to the EU, I would go to the best grad program you can in the region where you want to live.

But again, you seem really qualified already, do you need a masters in engineering to move to France? Especially when you are fluent in the language?

Cichlidae posted:

My current engineering degree and experience are not valuable outside the US because civil engineering (and especially my sub-field) are incredibly provincial. But that's ok, because I hate my job anyway and don't want to keep doing it. To enter another field in another country, more education is required. As an example, all of the asphalt, concrete, and steel design I've learned is based on US code, using imperial units, and again, very provincial.

That may be true, but the underlying physics, material science, and practical problem-solving conducted by civil engineers is largely universal. There'd be a learning curve to re-train your brain to think in these EU converted paradigms, but overall I think somebody with your salary and experience would be a desirable candidate.

IMO only do grad school for at least one of the following situations:
1. A huge bump in income
2. Pivot to a new job sector
3. Employer pays for it

I just don't see why you would need to do grad school to get an engineering job in France when you're already an experienced engineer AND speak the language fluently

JIZZ DENOUEMENT fucked around with this message at Apr 26, 2018 around 19:36

Notorious b.s.d.
Jan 25, 2003

a new world is coming
available fall of 1995


First, a French master's degree is worth precisely nothing inside the United States. It only has a value in France, so this is an awful way to dip your toe in the water. If you are uncertain about living in a second-tier city in France, and it turns out you don't like it very much, you have wasted years of your life and run up tens of thousands of debt for nothing.

Second, emigrating to France is extremely difficult. What makes you think you will secure a work visa after you graduate?

The "Highly Qualified Worker" visa is only open to highly paid employees:

quote:

You must have an employment contract valid for at least 12 months and earn at least 1.5 times the average gross reference salary (fixed annually: 35 891 EUR for 2016), which represents. 53,836.50 EUR.

Engineering salaries are not particularly high in France. Particularly not for foreigners with masters degrees from second-tier universities -- the average salaries skew high becaues they represent people who went to the top-flight schools in Paris. As a foreigner with limited language competence, graduating from France's equivalent of Iowa State, you are gonna make less than the average.

Worse: the program is in English? How on earth are you going to learn technical French, or survive a French employment interview if you do your graduate program in English?

In short, don't do this. This is a really, really bad idea. Graduate school in France isn't a cool vacation, it's a high-risk, high-cost endeavour that could shatter your marriage.

Cichlidae
Aug 12, 2005

ME LOVE
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Wretched Harp

Following the advice here, I've abandoned trying to study there, but I've been applying for jobs and have attracted some interest. As expected, it seems it's very hard and potentially even legally prohibited to get a CDI (permanent position) at a public agency, but one bureau has asked if I'd be willing to accept an Article 3-3 CDD (limited-term contract) in my field of a duration not to exceed 3 years. Do any of you have experience with this situation, and is it worth pursuing? Would I be in a foot-in-the-door situation where I could get a contract extension, or is it more of a "you can't work here after 3 years" thing?

I do appreciate all your advice, it's been immensely helpful, especially in explaining to my wife and family why I'm not going overseas. My company has also offered me some assistance if I'd prefer to stick around and go to grad school here, which I wouldn't have thought to ask for otherwise.

KYOON GRIFFEY JR
Apr 12, 2010



oh are you insistent that you have to work public sector? that is going to be hard

Cichlidae
Aug 12, 2005

ME LOVE
MAKE RED LIGHT


Wretched Harp

KYOON GRIFFEY JR posted:

oh are you insistent that you have to work public sector? that is going to be hard

They're interviewing me in 2 weeks, so there's a good chance I could get the offer. It's more a question of how well I fit the position and how certain I'd be of long-term employment.

Notorious b.s.d.
Jan 25, 2003

a new world is coming
available fall of 1995


Cichlidae posted:

They're interviewing me in 2 weeks, so there's a good chance I could get the offer. It's more a question of how well I fit the position and how certain I'd be of long-term employment.

How is that going to work visa-wise?

As far as I know, France doesn't have any open-ended permit other than the "highly skilled worker" thing, which has minimum pay requirements.

Is your employer planning to pay you at least 58k euro a year?

Cichlidae
Aug 12, 2005

ME LOVE
MAKE RED LIGHT


Wretched Harp

Notorious b.s.d. posted:

How is that going to work visa-wise?

As far as I know, France doesn't have any open-ended permit other than the "highly skilled worker" thing, which has minimum pay requirements.

Is your employer planning to pay you at least 58k euro a year?

I doubt I could manage to negotiate that. Unless they're willing to pull some strings, which I don't see why they would, things wouldn't work out. And after looking in a lot more detail at French traffic signal controllers, holy cow, they're nothing at all like what we use here.

SiGmA_X
May 3, 2004
SiGmA_X


Cichlidae posted:

I doubt I could manage to negotiate that. Unless they're willing to pull some strings, which I don't see why they would, things wouldn't work out. And after looking in a lot more detail at French traffic signal controllers, holy cow, they're nothing at all like what we use here.
Wow, they don't pay >€58k for an engineer with a few years experience? EU-HQ'd state side based friend is an engineer with 5yrs exp and he's way over €58k...and has been since ~2yrs post graduation. He has a BS not MS, also.

Not my field, I was just commenting because that sounds insanely low.

Cicero
Dec 17, 2003

Jumpjet, melta, jumpjet. Repeat for ten minutes or until victory is assured.

White collar professional salaries in Europe tend to be lower than in the US. Part of that is just usually having lower GDP per capita in most countries, part of it is less income inequality (which obviously doesn't help you if you're above the median).

Cichlidae
Aug 12, 2005

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MAKE RED LIGHT


Wretched Harp

That was the weirdest interview I've ever had.

The maximum contract duration is 6 years, I told them I'd need at least 54k (or whatever it is at that point) at year 5 in order to stick around, otherwise I wouldn't be able to take the job. They said it's possible and will ask HR. They said they have to pay some sort of tax if they hire a foreign worker, which makes things tricky on their end, plus there's no way for me to get a CDI at a public agency, so I'd have to find another job after the 6 years.

But aside from the financials and long-term prospects, they verified my experience and even though there are some fundamental differences between traffic control here and there, the position has been vacant and they haven't had any applicants, and they said that they're desperate to get it filled. I explained that things are done differently here and that I might not be the best fit, expecting that they'd just say "thanks but no thanks," but they still seemed plenty interested and asked me how quickly I could move. It's a departmental council, so it's not like they're a fly-by-night organization, but it seems like a red flag that they'd even be willing to hire me considering there are almost certainly better candidates there. Anyway, they're going to get back to me in a couple weeks and I'll see if they're still interested.

Is there a lack of specialized engineering knowledge in France, or is this just a bad place to work that can't attract new employees? If they extend a job offer, I'd want to visit them ASAP and get a better look at what I'd be getting into.

KYOON GRIFFEY JR
Apr 12, 2010



Reality check here: you are going to take a roughly 50% pay cut to do this if you move forward. What is your wife going to do?

Cichlidae
Aug 12, 2005

ME LOVE
MAKE RED LIGHT


Wretched Harp

KYOON GRIFFEY JR posted:

Reality check here: you are going to take a roughly 50% pay cut to do this if you move forward. What is your wife going to do?

She'd be unemployed, same as she is now.

The pay cut is something I've spent a lot of time thinking about. We tried cutting out a bunch of discretionary expenditures for a month to get a rough idea of what it'd be like to live on less, and it wasn't remotely intolerable. Right now, we spend at least $10k/year on vacations, for example, and cutting that to $2k or less doesn't seem like much of a hardship. On the other hand, my current situation at work is really solid. My boss quit last month, and management has told me I'm now critical to the office and they'll do whatever I want to keep me there. I think I'll ask for a 10% raise at the end of the year, which should bring me up to $126k, and that's really loving nice for someone with a BS and 10 years of experience.

If they do offer me the job, it's going to come down to living comfortably here vs. living frugally there, and that's not going to be an easy decision.

Edit: Didn't get it, which isn't at all a surprise.

Cichlidae fucked around with this message at Jul 4, 2018 around 17:16

SiGmA_X
May 3, 2004
SiGmA_X


What did your wife use to do in the States, and why'd she quit?

Cichlidae
Aug 12, 2005

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Wretched Harp

SiGmA_X posted:

What did your wife use to do in the States, and why'd she quit?

She's never had a full-time job, only gotten seasonal positions and volunteer spots for local public agencies and non-profits in the environmental sector. She's been volunteering at the local aquarium for the last year and a half while applying for environmental jobs so there's not a hole in her résumé, but the lack of experience is a big detriment compared to other candidates, and she got her degree 9 years ago, so it's a bit stale.

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Eijas
Jan 19, 2006


I'm an American with a B.A. from the states who completed a Master's degree in France (instruction in French) at a "Grande École". I really don't understand where a lot of the responses in this thread are coming from.

On degrees from France having no value should you want to return to the U.S.:
This depends. The utility of a French-system degree may be limited outside of France, and certainly the EU, for second and third tier schools and in some areas where licensing is dependent on the degree system. That said, France has many top-tier business, engineering, economics, public administration, and social science schools whose degrees are highly valued outside of France and the EU. In my field, having studied in French has been a big advantage.

On needing to make $58k to get a work visa after you graduate.
This is not true. First, look into the "Autorisation Provisoire de Séjour", or APS visa. It gives you one year after completing you Master's program to work while looking for full time employment, and the remuneration required to translate it into a work visa is 1.5 times the minimum wage, or about 2200€/mo. Under the APS visa you are treated like any other European in the sense that they don't have to prove they looked for but failed to find qualified candidates from the EU. Even if you don't do the APS (though it's certainly your best bet), having a Master's from a French school means you qualify for the new "Passeport talent" enabling you to work in France if you are bale to secure a contract paying at least 35,963€/year.

As I understand it, your tuition in in the area of 9000€, much less than Master's programs in the states. Don't forget that in addition to other forms of financial aid, foreign students are also eligible for the "CAF", meaning up to 40% of the cost of your rent may be reimbursed to you. If you are thinking of going town the naturalization route, having completed a Masters in France cuts the required time for naturalization down from 5 years of residency to 2 years (in practice you need to have a decent job).

The downside is that there are a lot of Catch-22s in the French immigration/integration/naturalization process and there are some differences in paperwork depending on the Prefecture in which you live. I ended up leaving France because I was caught in one of these, but from my point of view you should be in a better position with an engineering degree and work experience under your belt. I still think about going back, and having the French Master' certainly makes that an easier prospect.

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