On Campus: The nurse and the biochemist

elaine_burns.jpg When I asked Elaine Burns of Minneapolis what her outlook for the future looks like, her answer hit me like a bucket of slush.

“Our outlook for the future is we want to get the heck out of here,” she said, bouncing one youngster on her knee as another begged for her attention nearby.

“Out of Minnesota?” I asked.

“Out of the United States,” she said. “We’re looking very seriously at moving to Canada after we both graduate. We’re kind of fed up, especially with the health care situation. We feel completely abandoned. We’ve been in and out of coverage by the state or by the companies my husband’s worked for and we just can’t do it. When we graduate, we’ll be in a much better position … but we’re, like, just forget it, we’re not going to participate in the system anymore; we want out.”

Her husband is a PhD candidate in biochemistry at the University of Minnesota. He graduated from Mankato State University after six years, went to work, then went back to school. Elaine went back to school after her youngest child was born,

They’re scraping by, she says. “My husband worked while he was in school. He was in construction. His dad has been able to help us out a little bit. Student loans, which with the current economic situation, is on our minds. Student loan money might not be there. He gets a small stipend, but we also worry about money from NIH (National Institutes of Health) drying up — research money for programs he’s in.”

“The health care is really scary. We’re covered by the U of M, but it’s still expensive. We don’t have dental. It’s always something; you always wonder what’s going to be the next thing that happens. When you’re living week-to-week, it only takes one catastrophe to put you under.”

She’s taking Spanish at Century College at the moment, hoping it will be the “golden ticket” to break into the nursing field. She wants to work somewhere — in Canada, apparently — with kids.

What does 5 years from now look like? “We’re hoping things will settle down for us and we have a regular life. A little house somewhere that we won’t have to move out of sometime in the near future,” she said.

In a typical day, she says her husband is gone 10 or 12 hours working in the lab, “and then doing classes. I go to school in the evening and then it’s midnight and I’m working on online courses and I’m, like, ‘We can’t do this for four more years.’ Then other days you just think about what it’ll be like when it’s over.”

Here’s a second helping of slush:

“There are people at this school that are doing way more than what we’re doing. Single parents with parents to take care of, working two jobs, and going to school; so I know it can be done,” she says.

  • kerrie

    Amen, sister. I am right there with you.

  • Elaine


    You were wonderfully accommodating to me and my children today. It can be hard to put a sentence together when wrangling those two… Thanks.

    One thing I wanted to mention while I was there but didn’t get the chance was what an awesome job Century College is doing providing opportunities for ‘non-traditional’ students.

    As you have seen, there is an amazing diversity at Century and that is directly related to their efforts in attracting and supporting folks who might not make it at other institutions. Online classes, night classes, fast track classes, creative scheduling and course offerings ensure that you can make a college education work for you.

    I can’t wait to see what you find at other schools within the MNSCU system.

  • Patty

    Lainie, Nice job on the interview! You were articulate and calm (even with the kids distracting you), and voiced the frustration that so many feel. It is the first time in the history of this country that we, as parents, cannot feel confident that our children will have more opportunities and an easier life than we did. Your generation will have many challenges. As much as I understand and respect your desire to step away and try living under a new system, I can only encourage you to not give up hope. This country will really be a sad place if all of our young, bright families decide there is no place for them here. Hopefully, with the upcoming change in administration we will be able to regain some pride in being U.S. citizens and work together to make this a country of growth and security for all. Whatever you ultimately decide is best for your family, I wish you peace and prosperity.

  • http://www.hearthtohearth.org Scot Harvey

    I hear what you are saying about health insurance. I work for a hospital and many of the companies in the community provide better health insurance then I receive from the hospital owned health insurance company.

  • http://www.theexpatcoach.com Louise Green

    Everywhere I turn to see US citizens talking about moving to Canada. I am UK expat living in Canada, so must admit I do not fully appreciate what it is like to be living in the US at the moment.

    I think Patty has some very good points, plus whilst Canada may not be suffering so economically, there are still issues here. Moving here away from any support network you currently have, establishing a new identity will be very challenging too. The first few years as an immigrant are tough.

    The best motivations and reason for moving to a country are what you will gain by being there not because you don’t like what you have. Don’t run away from a bad situation but run towards a good one. Best Wishes with whatever you decide is right for you and your family.