Marjorie Ferrone | From Russia with love (and happiness)


Marger Than Life | The financial benefit of being a science major is inextricably tied with intellectual value




I have lived a month in Moscow now on my parents’ dime. Besides the cultural chasm that matches the physical one, the experience has been just slightly less exciting than Sean Connery’s performance as Agent 007. And his ally’s cunning quip in the film is all too pertinent to my time here: “Ah, the old game: Give a wolf a taste then leave him hungry.”

I indeed grow hungry, as I have tasted the good life. With drivers, maids and an apartment that costs the same in a year as a full Penn education, I feel like the only thing missing is a tiara.

And outings with the International Women’s Club provide a network that fosters cultural exposure and giving back to our host community. I think it’s safe to say that the life of an expatriate isn’t too shabby.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m no one special. I was just lucky enough to have come out of the right womb at the right time.

But the clincher for me is that, as I write, I enjoy the fruits of my parents’ labor in ExxonMobil — labor defined by technical degrees in a technical field. It has been a lifetime of my father’s merciless pounding for me to obtain a technical degree, against my pleas of “just wanting to be happy in the humanities.” But now, I ashamedly eat my words as I study a science — geology to be specific.

It isn’t just the money that I’m sniffing out, for my nose has never gained a heightened pleasure of that scent. Indeed, it was always my brother who was dead-set on making big bucks on Wall Street, which of course included “models and bottles.” A summa cum laude in applied mathematics from Columbia University, he did not face much difficulty climbing the corporate ladder.

Within a couple years of post-graduate endeavors, he achieved that world’s validation of success, with Goldman Sachs banging on his door. I must admit that his position in New York City is not one lacking desires, either.

It isn’t the money simply, but the quality of intellectual life that the bills unfortunately can buy. I choke as I admit that David Lee Roth may have been correct when he suggested that “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a yacht big enough to pull up right alongside it.”

Stints with my brother in Manhattan’s Financial District, and now the expat community in Moscow, have impressed upon me the indisputable intertwining of socioeconomic status with a cultured, curious and captivating life.

No, the Benjamins — or, in this case, the Amurskys — do not attract my attention as much as the sense of sophistication and worldliness. This circle of expats, specifically my father’s coworkers, is indeed here because they have sought out adventure and different experiences for themselves and their families. One young Australian father mentioned that his son is just seven and has already lived on four continents. It is the excitement of the mind that captures my awe, that which I lacked at my former institution in exchange for a secure, though limited, future.

During my freshman and sophomore years at the United States Naval Academy, the more noble goal of serving my country was, in fact, the only goal. There, my military future was planned, and I had only to worry about choosing one of six career options.

It was not until I transferred to Penn that I received a healthy dose of reality — neither the military nor my parents will take care of me after graduation. Another beautiful hypothesis was slain by an ugly fact: post-graduation, science majors face lower unemployment rates and higher salaries than humanities majors. It was safe to say that I caught the civilian career-fever: Eat or be eaten.

I figure it like this: If I have the credentials and the opportunity to open the gilded gate, why not? Of course, I am not professing that indulgence and extravagance are the way to go; merely that money makes life easier, and science majors make more of it.

Only on the cusp of being spit out into the real world — as I both transferred and I now approach senior year — did I admit these facts to myself. So tomorrow I take a leap by interviewing with ExxonMobil. Here’s to happiness.

Marjorie Ferrone is a College junior from Houston studying geology. Her email address is marjorie.ferrone@gmail.com.

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