Monday, March 17, 2008

Email from a student in the north of England

Last week, I received the following email from a new reader:

Dear GB,

I came across your site when searching for rent boys in London (nothing seedy I assure you). I was talking with my best friend (a very typical straight lad) about what being a rent boy might be like and how much you might earn, when I came across your post about being one for a night. Unfortunately I am a little like the guy who hired you as I can't bring myself to terms with the facts, I'm crying out to my friends by talking explicitly about boys in the school, their physique, demeanour etc. I can't help but catch a glance at them and fantasize. But I see myself growing old with a wife and kids, however this may be a problem for next time.

You see I'm a student from the north of England who is eighteen years old, approaching the end of my courses in college, I took maths and further maths, biology, chemistry and computing (which I dropped last week to concentrate on the others). I've applied to universities this year namely Newcastle, Warwick, Bristol, Durham and Cambridge for maths. I was rejected from Bristol and Cambridge and got offers from Newcastle and Warwick. The reason I'm writing this is that the one place I had set my hopes upon was Durham and after checking my emails, found out the devastating news not only 2 hours ago. I was sure I would get in, I'm sporty, do well(ish) in school and am generally a very nice guy, but this makes me want to cry.

Durham CathedralI have no inclination to go anywhere else so I want to take a gap year where I gain experience of the world and be a more appealing prospective student next year for Durham. So I wanted some advice and guidance because I have wanted to work in the City and my dream job would be an investment banker. My year out is not a rash decision, I have been contemplating it since my first rejections came through and have been saying to myself that if Durham said no then I would reapply next year to get in. Lots of my friends have got places but most importantly, it's so nice there and I can't see myself going anywhere else.

I have thought about the options I have. The chance of going to Africa to teach for a while is a possibility. I would love a job/placement in the city for some time to understand it and help me commit to the life I want. How would I go about getting said job/placement? My other question(s) are; what do you think would look most impressive on a CV/application? Would taking a year out hurt my chances of a job later as I wouldn't look so academic?

My options are not limited to what I have stated here, any extra input would be so greatly valued

Your not so long time reader yet great enthusiast,

I don't usually give career advice here, because I think it's better to try and keep this blog tightly focused on gay issues, however this email does contain a couple of gay issues as well as the career queries. I also noticed that the guy is a budding mathematician, and since I'm keen on sums myself, I've decided to make an exception on this occasion :-). So within a few hours of receiving the email I'd replied suggesting that I write a 'Dear GB' answer for him, and a few hours later he sent me another email agreeing.

Both in connection with his personal life and his university choice, I can see that this guy is a bit scared of the unknown. It's only natural, after all he's only eighteen years old, and at that age no one really knows what the best direction is for their life. He lives in the north of England, and Durham, his preferred university, is also located in the north of England so presumably it's not too far from his home town. Since it's also where his friends are going it's clearly the most comfortable choice. Similarly in connection with his personal life, he obviously might be bi-sexual or gay, but it doesn't sound as though he's made any big steps yet to work it out one way or the other. So I think my best advice is to recommend a bit of bravery in both directions.

Warwick university math departmentGiven his academic inclinations towards maths and perhaps a banking career in the City, I definitely think he should go to Warwick. The Times Good University Guide even puts Warwick slightly ahead of Durham, and there's no doubt that Warwick is a very good university to study maths. More than that, the Warwick Finance Research Institute (including the Financial Options Research Centre) is located there. It's also much closer to London than Durham is, so Warwick will naturally have more connections with banks in the City than Durham has, especially in the area of quantitative finance which is relevant in his case.

Additionally, I think that taking a year out is a great idea, provided that he's got something good to do with that year which will broaden his horizons. Teaching in Africa sounds great. I also think taking a year out between school and university means that one ends up getting much more out of one's university years, and the end result is that he'll be a better candidate for whatever career he wants to follow. I think creativity is at least as important as academic achievements, and if nothing else, a year out doing something interesting shows a bit more creativity than simply going directly from school to university. So without further ado, I reckon he should immediately ask Warwick to postpone his entry for one year, and then focus on finding something to do for his year out, without forgetting that he should study hard for his end of year exams :-).

In terms of job/placement in a bank, I think it's best to aim for that during the summer holidays once he's at university, perhaps in between his 2nd and 3rd years. Those positions are called internships, and most major banks have internship programs. Information may be available from their web sites, but perhaps its best to write to the Human Resources department of each bank and ask for information about the application procedure. For gay candidates there's also the 'investment banking inside and out' event to help candidates find out more about what a career in banking involves. I recall from when I attended the event last November that the Human Resources staff who were there were all keen to get internship applications from anyone who was interested.

Moving back to his personal life, given that he might be gay or bisexual he should be aware of the dangers of falling in love with his straight friends. The result can be that a perfectly good friendship is ruined, which is particularly traumatic for anyone who's just working out that they're gay or bisexual. Avoiding a difficult situation like that might be another reason to go to Warwick rather than Durham. Given his comments that he fantasizes about other boys, I definitely think he should follow up on this physically at some point, because the fewer doubts that one has about oneself the better. Either "I was bi-curious as a teenager but it turned out I was straight" or "I never fancied girls and it turned out I was gay" is fine, but "I'm bi-curious but never followed up on it" isn't OK! The last thought probably really means "I'm bi-curious but am too scared to find out more", but in any case while these kind of thoughts linger they hold the person back because sexuality is such a fundamental part of who anyone is. It also helps when applying for jobs, in the sense that the more self-knowledge one has the more confident one is :-).

Lastly, should he earn a bit of cash as a rent boy? I don't think that it's a particularly easy thing to do. I recall being told that one should only be a rent boy if one wouldn't mind having sex with one's grandfather, because the bulk of a rent boy's clients are older guys. Younger guys don’t typically have the expendable income to buy rent boys, and usually don't need to pay for sex anyway! But if anyone wants to know what a rent boy charges, simply get a gaydar account (which is free for the basic service) and visit the escort/client chat rooms. All the rent boys specify their basic fees on their profiles.

Anyway, do any other readers have any other advice for this student?


Anonymous said...

Hi, I enjoy reading your site and I think your advice to this student is spot on. I think he is nervous about Uni and his sexuality and that a gap year may be exactly what he needs to broaden his horizons and help him to sort out how he feels about himself and of course his future. Your point about not falling for your straight friends is particularly important; I didn't have any such advice when I was 18 and wasted a long time lusting and trying to love the impossible before doing something about how I felt in terms of sexuality. Good luck to our student friend whatever he decides:-)

glhairyfxxker said...

How about studying Maths at one of the London colleges? King's, UCL or LSE? I think this guy needs to throw himself outside of his comfort zone. He should stop going for the easy option. London would be the perfect place for him to explore. Yes it might be expensive, but I'm sure he'll manage. Besides, he might give the escorting a proper go that way.

glhairyfxxker said...

PS One additional thought, since it has been under 10 years since I applied to University, and that I presume Maths is still as terribly undersubscribed as ever, he might find that he can get a place at one of the London colleges through clearing provided he gets good grades. Exceptionally, I know a friend who got an offer to read Maths at Oxford that way, notwithstanding Oxford don't formally participate in clearing (though I would recommend against anywhere outside of London). I would ditch the gap year idea. Get to University and start working and accumulating wealth and therefore freedom to make choices sooner rather than later. When you are a successful City Banker you can always move jobs, get three months paid gardening leave and travel. Just my thoughts. Hope it works out.

Will said...

If he's had no sexual experience with a man to this point, putting himself out as a rent boy would seem to be a very ill-advised course of action. Clients are going to want assurance and a variety of sexual skills. He's going to need to be able to think on his feet and to recognize when things might be getting a bit dicey. I'm not sure how marketable a virgin is in this context.

The year off is a fairly popular idea here in the US; I understand that colleges and universities look upon it kindly. If your system in the UK supports an applicant contacting the admissions office to discuss the reasons for the rejection, and proposing goals and strategies for improving his chances after a year on his own, I would certainly recommend that. It happens here, and can be a great way to get on the university's radar as someone who's highly motivated to attend--a desirable potential student who's worth chatting up a bit.